Monday, September 22, 2014


 ♪ Music we're cooking to ♪

It's deliciously liberating to not have any attachments.

Soak dried chickpeas in plenty of water over night.

To not feel the glare, pressure and judgment of those wiser than you, those that have come before you, searing your back.  Those mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, that make a habit of pulling up a stool and comfortably perching themselves on your shoulders, watching your every move. Wagging their fingers at every sprinkle of sweet Spanish paprika.  Tisking and tasking as they watch the lemon juice trickle through you fingers - announcing its presence on what were forgotten cuts and scrapes. And perhaps - just perhaps - if these elders are in a giving mood they might grant you one and only one nod of approval as they watch you release the chick peas from the embrace of their skins.

Stir the chick peas with baking soda in a pot over high heat, add more water and watch as the skins rise to the top.  Magic. 

You breathe a sigh of relief that you are not the carrier of this particular torch.  Your shoulders feel weightless - free.  This is your kitchen and your mood dictates your kitchen.  For better or for worse. 

Give the lemon juice, garlic and spices a whirl in the food processor to combine.  I use sweet Spanish paprika because I also cook with the moods and taste buds of a five-year-old and eight-year-old in mind.  Use smoky paprika if you prefer - or even a sprinkle of cayenne if your taste buds have fully developed.  If you're in the mood for a little more tang and general deliciousness (as I usually am), add the preserved lemons too.  If not - don't.  Moody kitchen rules apply here.

Thousands of years of culture, debate and national pride cooly and casually bounce off of you and float off back into the ether.  Back towards their homeland. 

This "region" that so graciously gave birth to civilization, yet has struggled so to gently cradle it in its arms. 

This vast swath of land - where passions run high - extremely high.  

Where laughter can echo across its borders without need of passports, papers, religion. 

Where tears have flooded its rivers, lakes and seas for far too long - far too long.  

Where food - a simple meal prepared over a fire and shared with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers alike - is revered, debated, united, and is more integral to existence than any arbitrary lines etched out on a map.  

Where every tribe, every neighborhood, every home will tell you that their preparation for Hummus bi Tahini - chickpeas with tahini is the BEST way, THE authentic way, the ONLY way. 

Add the tahini (on this particular day my mood dictates to go easy on the tahini - so I do) with the saved chickpea broth (the water you cooked the chickpeas in - because my taste buds inform me this adds more flavor to the finished product).  Give it another whirl. 

But most of all, you are grateful that for once, your birth place - the very same land that for the first eight years of your life was the only home you knew - is not at the center of this particular regional discourse, debate, crisis. The politics of hummus might brush against the great peak of Mount Damavand, but it does not settle there.  It continues on its journey. Becoming one again with the dust, the sea, and mountain ranges of Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Israel, Jordan. 

Drop in the chickpeas and blend until smooth and creamy.  Excersize patience.  This might take a few minutes. If needed add a little more broth to thin out.  Taste.  Listen - and I mean really listen - to your taste buds.  Add more of anything you think is lacking.  Let the hummus rest in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before serving - it's been through a long journey, after all.   Bring to room temperature before serving (we can all use the time to acclimate) and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Serve as is or sprinkle top with anything your mood dictates. 

You glance up and catch a legion of mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers watching you from afar.  You respectfully nod and acknowledge their presence.  You are tempted to invite them to tea - but you don't.  They have a long journey ahead of them and many more homes to visit.  They nod back and acknowledge that that they will not be staying today.  You watch them turn their backs and leave.  

You freely sprinkle in the sweet Spanish paprika.