My family ate hummus often as I was growing up in suburban Detroit.
It would be the one recipe that would bring my dad — born in Mexico City to Lebanese immigrants — into the kitchen. Growing up, he had six doting sisters (and one brother), so he never had much reason to step foot into the kitchen. (Although, recently, he’s become surprisingly competent in the kitchen.)
His mother was born and raised in the mountain town of Broummana, Lebanon. She immigrated to Mexico City as a teen and raised her eight kids on a luscious diet of traditional Lebanese food, with some new Mexican favorites sprinkled in. One thing is sure: she was exceptionally skilled in the kitchen. Rumor has it that a cookbook author once spent several months observing her in the kitchen, and later published a cookbook based on her Lebanese recipes. Who knows if this is true or just family lore. But if it’s true, I really wish I could get my hands on that cookbook.
When she’d visit us in Michigan — or we’d visit her in Mexico — I remember her peach-fuzzed cheeks and our broken communication, bridged by kisses and food. I also remember her for always leaving a trail of parsley throughout the house.
We didn’t write many of her recipes down, because she always cooked to taste, never using measurements. But, later, my brother, American mother, dad and I would crowd around the food processor and try to replicate her hummus. We’d slowly pour in the garbanzo beans, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and tahini, shaking and nodding our heads until the flavor and consistency was just right. Or at least, as close to my grandmother’s version as we could get.
We’d then sit around the table and scoop it up with soft, warm pita bread (which, back then, we just called ‘Arabic bread’). It was heavenly.
Flash-forward a few decades and store-bought hummus and pita bread are now everywhere. A part of me is glad because it’s easy. But the store-bought versions will never live up to the real thing. Anything in a plastic tub, vacuum sealed with plastic wrap, will always be an imposter to me.
Plus, there’s a very strong part of me that wants to keep the hummus-making tradition alive for my melting pot kids.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does.