Who knew! Hummus and falafel are ‘Israeli foods’

on 38 Comments

David Lebovitz is a big foodie. He worked at Chez Panisse for years in Berkeley. Now he’s in Paris. So he’s hip. Yes and he hasn’t got a clue. Here he is riffing on a recipe for an Israeli dessert. By the way, I think this is unconscious hasbara. That is to say, the guy is so immersed in mainstream culture and its assumptions– Israel is his hostess’s “favorite place in the world”– that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

I’ve never given Israeli food all much thought. Sure, I’d had my fill of falafels and hummus in my lifetime, but there is a trip in my future and I was at a dinner party the other night and the woman hosting us had lived in Israel for a number of years and said it was her favorite place in the world.

Other people at the party chimed in saying also that the food was great – especially the salads, something I miss from years of living in California – all those vibrant, fresh greens and luscious tomatoes bursting with flavor that we had an overload of at the farmers markets! But I’ve never given much thought to Israeli desserts.

Update. Thanks to Henry Norr for changing Israeli desert to dessert.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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38 Responses

  1. Sumud
    June 18, 2012, 10:46 am

    But I’ve never given much thought to Israeli desserts.

    Let me guess – baklava?

    • seafoid
      June 18, 2012, 11:17 am


      Kanafiyeh is the most Israeli dessert . From Shechem .

      • Sumud
        June 18, 2012, 11:57 am

        Sounds yum seafoid, I might have to make some.

        Looks like some anti-semite jew-hating nazis (AKA human rights activists) have been at work on wikipedia again:


        No mention of Israel, apparently this dish is a traditional arab dish. So obviously *that* is wrong ;-)

      • Abuadam
        June 18, 2012, 7:31 pm

        Shechem, Yes, but I think the Samaritans whose decendents are mostly Muslim Palestinians today would object!

  2. pabelmont
    June 18, 2012, 10:49 am

    Thought they were Russian. Didn’t Russians invent everything?

  3. seafoid
    June 18, 2012, 11:10 am

    How about this fraud that is claimed as Israeli but in fact isn’t


    According to the autosomal polymorphisms the investigated Jewish populations do not share a common origin, and EEJ (Eastern European Jews) are closer to Italians in particular and to Europeans in general than to the other Jewish populations… EEJ are Europeans probably of Roman descent who converted to Judaism at times, when Judaism was the first monotheistic religion that spread in the ancient world. Any other theory about their origin is not supported by the genetic data.

    o The origin of Eastern European Jews revealed by autosomal, sex chromosomal and mtDNA polymorphisms (2010), Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin, Department of Human Genetics, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Israel, Biology Direct 2010, 5:57 5:57 doi:10.1186/1745-6150-5-57.

  4. piotr
    June 18, 2012, 11:21 am

    The concept of Jewish food is interesting.

    Coming to USA from Poland, I was surprised with lox and bagel. While the word bagel was familiar (there are complex issues how bagels and bubliks are related to each other and to the ethnic background to bakers and consumers), lox was a totally new thing, a delicacy from the frigid north of Europe. And where is the carp? “Fish Jewish style” is a typical appetizer in Poland, and is made with carp.

    In general, food forms a complex geographical continuum. Various forms of falafel are known all over Western and South Asia. Mongols, Russians and Poles have quite similar barley soup, so a food geographer could map Eurasia with zones of barley soup, cabbage soup, tea drunk from glasses, Wiener schnizel (a favorite Polish dish) and there are also zones of grape leaves, falafel and humus.

    In any case, falafel is, first and formost, a German dish. Over there you can eat it “mit alles” or make your pick what veggies you want, get the standard souse or also “scharf”, select Turkish or Syrian bread, and wash it down with ayran. Or if you feel less vegetarian, get a doener, all cheerfully served by German girls with neat scarfs covering their heads.

    • Taxi
      June 18, 2012, 1:30 pm

      “falafel is, first and formost, a German dish”.
      And where exactly are all them German fields of chick-peas located?

      • piotr
        June 18, 2012, 3:29 pm

        My favorite doner/falafel places were run by Syrians and Kurds. Much cheaper and better than Israeli falafel places in New York, and the less I tell about products in my little American town, the better. Although there is progress: on Manhattan street next to Wall Street you can get halal sandwiches from Bangladeshis, including falafels. Califate is taking over ground zero!

    • lysias
      June 18, 2012, 3:14 pm

      When I was stationed in Berlin with the U.S. Air Force, the quintessential Berlin food sold on all the street corners was Currywurst. Before the Currywurst was invented in the late 1940’s, the stereotypical Berlin dish was the meat patties called Buletten. Both the name and the dish Buletten (boulettes) reflects the heavy French influence of the big influx of Huguenot refugees in Berlin in the 17th and 18th centuries. (Just as I would guess Currywurst reflects the influence of British occupying troops after the end of World War Two.) I’ve never read Döblin’s novel Berlin Alexanderplatz, but at least in the 1931 movie, when protagonist Franz Biberkopf gets out of jail, the meal he orders in his local pub is Buletten and lager beer.

      And now the Turkish dish döner reflects the influence of the many Turks in Berlin in recent decades.

    • ColinWright
      June 19, 2012, 1:08 am

      ‘And where is the carp?’

      Speaking as an American, we’ve never been able to understand the willingness of Europeans to catch, much less eat, carp.

      There’s a joke. What’s the tastiest way to prepare carp?

      Broil it on a cedar shingle. Then throw away the carp and eat the shingle.

      Repulsive creatures. I await the day they develop a selective poison for them.

  5. tokyobk
    June 18, 2012, 11:26 am

    Cuisine is the one thing that almost every group appropriates willfully, ignorantly. Almost no dish is where it claims to be from, not sushi, not pasta, of course not the potato.

    I can understand with important things in peril like land, access to loved ones and the land farmed on, walked on, loved by parents and grandparents, that calling falafel Israeli stings too, but the food wars are silly on multiple levels.

    Pizza is Italian except that it is Arab too, ultimately, like the Falafel, which by the way really is Israeli because Israelis make it and eat it. Tempura is Japanese, right? (though Portuguese and before that perhaps from Guinea). Next time you eat a yellow banana know you are the appropriator of Wolof-Jamaican culture stolen by colonial south Americans.

    Or, just realize that food shows us we are actually one species sharing the same planet and we should follow its democratic example.

    • eljay
      June 18, 2012, 11:39 am

      >> Or, just realize that food shows us we are actually one species sharing the same planet and we should follow its democratic example.

      A good point, and one which Zio-supremacists and their glorious State – among others, of course – ought to take to heart.

    • Sumud
      June 18, 2012, 11:49 am

      Cuisine is the one thing that almost every group appropriates willfully, ignorantly.

      I think when it comes to Israel you’ll find it is wilful, not by ignorance – Israelis trying to convince themselves they belong in the region. Food is just about the only Middle Eastern thing Israelis have come to terms with. Of course chick peas, lemon juice and parsley can’t talk back…

      • seafoid
        June 18, 2012, 4:45 pm

        I’m surprise the Zionists allow parsley and lemon juice to mix in Israel.
        Hafrada is the usual approach to ensure purity. I guess their schnitzels didn’t cut the mustard with the Sephardim.

    • ColinWright
      June 19, 2012, 1:13 am

      …except that the other examples you cite are more or less innocent appropriations without larger implications.

      The branding of Hummus, etc as ‘Israeli’ is part and parcel of the entire Zionist project of ideologically annihilating Palestine as a place and Palestinians as a people and replacing them with ‘Israel.’ The Palestinians have food? It becomes ‘Israeli’ food.

      No aspect of this conflict is ‘silly’ — except perhaps that it’s happening at all. There’s no good reason for the Zionist project in the first place — and I certainly don’t intend to legitimize their creation in even the most trivial way.

  6. Les
    June 18, 2012, 11:32 am

    Lebovitz doesn’t say which Israeli original immigrants/settlers imported the hummus and felafel nor does he let us know what countries their native cusine came from.

  7. Light
    June 18, 2012, 11:56 am

    No one denies that Israelis eat falafel and hummus and most certainly help popularized these foods in the US. What is offensive is the Israeli disregard for the Palestinian and Arab origins. European Jews never ate these foods until they emigrated to Palestine.

  8. eljay
    June 18, 2012, 12:08 pm

    >> European Jews never ate these foods until they emigrated to Palestine.

    Fair enough, but once they emigrated to Palestine and set up their supremacist state, they became Israelis, and the article does refer to these foods as “Israeli foods” and not as “Jewish foods”.

    It’s a shame that Zio-supremacists aren’t prepared to be as inclusive with people as they are with foods…

    • Light
      June 18, 2012, 4:20 pm

      This article calls them Israeli but my local synagogue doesn’t make the distinction. The synagogue’s Jewish foods page is dominated by Israeli food that my grandmother would not recognize or would have called middle eastern food.

  9. Taxi
    June 18, 2012, 1:33 pm

    Even the humble chick-pea was occupied and annexed by zionists in chef’s hats.

  10. DICKERSON3870
    June 18, 2012, 2:43 pm

    RE: “Thanks to Henry Norr for changing Israeli desert to
    dessert.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: This brings to mind the thorny issue of “just deserts”!

    • just deserts – http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/just_deserts

  11. RoHa
    June 18, 2012, 9:11 pm

    “But I’ve never given much thought to Israeli desserts.”

    I thought Israel made the desserts bloom.

  12. DICKERSON3870
    June 18, 2012, 10:51 pm

    RE: “Who knew! Hummus and falafel are ‘Israeli foods’ “~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Woe be unto Israel if they try to claim Tater Tots® as an ‘Israeli food’. And they won’t just have Ore-Ida® to answer to;
    I’m drawing a line in the sand on Tater Tots®!

    • A mess of baked, golden brown “Tots” (JPEG) – http://www.thefarmersdaughter.me/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/IMG_1636.jpg

  13. gracie fr
    June 19, 2012, 6:18 am

    The chickpea (Cicer arietinum) (also ceci bean, garbanzo bean, chana, sanagalu Indian pea, Bengal gram). Its seeds are high in protein and it is one of the earliest cultivated vegetables; 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East. Domesticated chickpeas have been found in the aceramic levels of Jericho along with Cayönü in Turkey and in Neolithic pottery at Hacilar, Turkey. Early Neolithic peoples cultivated and ate variations of chickpea dishes, but it was the Roman Imperium which spread the sowing and harvesting of this variety of pulse throughout the Mediterranean basin territories it ruled over as a source of food (soups, bread, flour)high in protein (meat spoiled easily) for billeted troops beyond supply lines and because the plant’s water demands was minimal. It is the most heat and drought-resistant crop and is suitable for production in low moisture and fertility soils. India, Pakistan and Turkey are the top leaders in chickpea production.( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chickpea)
    In Israel, chickpea is the main pulse crop and is grown on about 7 500 ha across the country, from the Negev in the south to the Galilee in the north, with average yields of 2-4 T ha. Chickpea in Israel is mainly cooked and mashed into a paste (hummus) or deep-fried into falafel balls, both favorite dishes in the Israeli kitchen.( Influence of Sowing Date on Yields of Fresh-harvested Chickpea ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/jas/article/…/6218)
    The” chickpea war” is ongoing, with local restaurant owners in various middle eastern cities claiming to offer the best humus and falafel, and disparaging similar Israeli claims….. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/chickpea-wars-israelis-up-in-arms-at-bid-to-stop-them-selling-hummus-957895.html)

    • Taxi
      June 19, 2012, 7:02 am

      Mondo dudes and dudettes, you haven’t lived till you’ve eaten the chick-pea green and right outta it’s individual velvety pod. Had it in Lebanon last month when it was in season – my Lebanese friend served it on a flat wicker basket, wild and gathered in a giant bunch, a substitute for peanuts with afternoon chilled beer – and not being a drinker, I ate up and fast most of the bunch, yum thoroughly enjoying pod-pop after pod-pop. Those things are addictive and only available green for about three weeks per year. They have another name in Lebanon for it when it’s green: Um Ulaybany.

      • thankgodimatheist
        June 19, 2012, 8:53 am

        “They have another name in Lebanon for it when it’s green: Um Ulaybany.”

        We also call it Hamleh (pregnant/carrying). Sold on street corners by the bunch. Can be eaten both ways; green out of the pod or slightly baked over an open fire, a memorable treat.

      • Taxi
        June 19, 2012, 4:40 pm

        “Baked” uh scrumptious sewz! Will have to try it. Me I just love how the velvety pod is a tad lemony flavored so when you handle it with fingers and pop the pod (a cheerful pop sound, don’t you think?), take out the green chickpea and put it in your mouth, you invariably lick the lemon off you fingertips and get a lovely surprise of sweet and zesty – awh it’s awful frustrating how small they are though: soon as the first fresh chickpea’s in my mouth it’s small and taste so good and eaten swallowed so fast and instantly I wanna another one and another one and another one ugh I wanted more than one at a time in my mouth I wanted a mouthful but in that kinda moment I had the patience of a drug addict at his dealer’s at midnight and never actually managed it – I just about devoured the great big communal pile in under 10 minutes all by myself! Hahahaha it was delightful and insane. That was my first green chickpea/Um Ulaybany/Hamleh experience. That’s the cool thing about hanging out with the natives in foreign countries, you sure do get some interesting produce to taste.

        It’s such a beautiful thing too to actually see the chickpea plant itself – so twiggy thin with so many tiny leaves, velvet pods dangling: little lanterns. Never seen that before – they don’t exactly sell them at my local California nursery or farmers’ market where the chickpea usually comes dry and packaged in plastic.

        I’m thinking. Nature is glam. Lemon flavored velvet coat designer and tailor. Who else would come up with hot trendy crazy shit like that?! Versace didn’t, Michelangelo sure didn’t neither.

      • gracie fr
        June 19, 2012, 6:18 pm

        Nice riff on chickpeas Taxi….!!!!

      • Taxi
        June 21, 2012, 1:01 am

        Gracias gracie!

      • piotr
        June 21, 2012, 4:27 pm

        According to Wikipedia, chickpeas were domesticated early during Neolitic revolution in Turkey, so they are eaten a bit longer in Mediterranean than Jewish calendar, i.e. since before the beginning of the world. Ancient Greeks mentioned eating them raw and fresh, as you describe.

  14. flyod
    June 19, 2012, 8:01 am

    it was ben -gurion himself , along with eugen propper (osem foods), who hijacked and re-branded couscous as ptitim. in these parts it’s known as israeli couscous and is served at the oh so hip Bread Alone Bakery. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptitim

    • seafoid
      June 21, 2012, 6:00 am

      I’ve see Israeli couscous mentioned in several American cookbooks.

  15. Stone
    July 5, 2012, 3:59 pm

    That’s always bothered me since “real” couscous tastes a bit different and if you make it from scratch or at least in a couscousiere it is a very primal experience. It’s a shame that is indeed mentioned in a few cookbooks as opposed to other forms of couscous which are more authentic and not as old as my parents…

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