This I Believe Essay: I believe in Hummus

Nisreen Zaqout

hummusI believe in Hummus.

I believe in its power of creating wars and ending them. Its power to make and destroy peace and its power to momentarily satisfy my hunger.

I remember walking down the hallway of my high school’s dining hall straight to the “Middle Eastern” snack isle every morning. Every morning, I would cross paths with a girl who also seemed to have a thing for Hummus. We would look at each other and smile every time we tried to reach to the Hummus plate at the same moment. I never knew her name, or where she came from.

In the last two weeks of school, the school usually held an annual international festival to celebrate diversity. International students cooked and shared their traditional food with other students. Countries were grouped regionally; all African nations lined up next to each other, all Asian countries did the same and so forth. I ended up getting a table between Syria and Israel.

To my surprise, the girl that I used to see every morning was standing next to me on the Israeli table. Things were going well, until she took out a plate of fresh-smelling Hummus and placed it neatly on her table. Thoughts began racing through my head, how could she do that? How dare she call my traditional food hers? This was not about Hummus. It was about a clash between two different cultures. Two cultures that don’t believe in each other’s existence.

Since that moment, my mornings were never the same, nor were hers. I could see that she did not feel the same about our morning encounters. They were not friendly, nor neutral anymore. They became a mixture of tension and anxiety.

From that day on, seeing Hummus makes me wonder, what if I agreed to share my Hummus with her? Maybe that would have brought peace to our relationship. But another part of me refuses to give up what I have always considered to be mine. I realized that an agreement on where Hummus comes from, would be exactly like agreeing on peace between Israel and Palestine. Which is almost impossible.

I still believe in Hummus.  I believe in it, and all its contradictions.

Hummus is my identity and my identity crisis.

 * image courtesy of aamerjaved on flickr Creative Commons

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