Leading author Meir Shalev was born in 1948 in Nahalal, Israel's first moshav, where he also grew up. He later moved to Jerusalem, where he lives today. After studying psychology at the Hebrew University, Shalev became well-known as the producer and moderator of radio and TV programs. Shalev's novels have been best-sellers abroad as well as in Israel; he has also written two non-fiction books and five books for children. He has won the Bernstein Prize (1989), the Juliet Club Prize (Italy, 1999), the Wizo Prize in France, Israel and Italy, the Brenner Prize (2006) and the American National Jewish Book Award for The Pigeon and the Boy (2007). His work has been published abroad in over 20 languages.
Meir Shalev threw a biblical grenade into the 'Hummus War' when he wrote and published an article titled, The Hummus Is Ours.
Alonei Abba, Israel, September 2011
I'd like you to tell me about your article that you wrote, the one that proved to be controversial, why you wrote it, and what it was about? Give me the full story.
Well, a few years ago, there, there was a book published here about the, the hummus, the history of hummus, why do people love it so much. And, and the, the author mentioned the, the controversy between Palestinians and, and Is-Israelis, Jewish people in Israel, because they claimed that we sort of stole their, their hummus.
We sell it. We produce it which, you know, I don't find anything wrong about it. We, we also produce pasta, and it's not...and I know that Palestinians eat McDonald's, you know. It's...
Anyway, what I wanted to say, is that according to my reading of the Bible, the hummus is already mentioned in the Bible, which means it is mentioned in the times of the First Temple, before the first exile of the Jews from, from their homeland.
And according to, to my interpretation...interpretation of the Bible, it is a food known here in this area, when, when we were here in our early stage of history. I don't want to make any political claim through that.
But I thought it could be an interesting look into the Holy Scripture, because the, the Bible describes not only prophets, and, and prophecies, it also describes daily life of people, and the daily foods, and the daily habits that they had.
And here we having the Book of Ruth, which is a short story of four chapters of a certain Moabite young woman, who came from Moab, which is on the other side of the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley, to the land of Judah, to Bethlehem as a matter of fact. The same Bethlehem, you know, from the, from the New Testament stories.
And here she meets a local Israeli person called Boaz, who has a big field of, of wheat. And she goes to this field to look for grain, you know, to feed herself and her mother-in-law.
And Boaz likes her. You know that Moabite girls were desirable at, at ancient times. It is mentioned in the Bible as...they had some kind of sexual reputation in the Bible. I don't know anything about it, because there are no more Moabite girls in the neighbourhood. But still they, they are known to be a-attractive.
No personal experience?
Not so...not even a hearsay, because...you know, this nation disappeared from, from this area. We are all sorry about it. Anyway, she's there in the field. And Boaz likes her, and she, she's a well-mannered woman as well. And he invites her to, to drink from the water of his worker, and to be in his field. He say, 'Nobody will hurt you in, in my field. I will protect you'.
And then towards lunch, he says...if I may read in Hebrew...
[talks in Hebrew] [Interpretation] 'At the time of lunch, come to us, come here. And you will eat from our bread. And you dip your pita or your slice of bread in the hamitz. What I claim is that this hamitz is hummus.'
Now usually, the word hamitz in Hebrew means vinegar. And this is how this is translated in all the translations of the Bible. And this is how this is understood by, by all the readers...'til today, I dare to say I given no kind of, of reading.
I think this hamitz is hummus. These are the same three consonants, the same roots, you know. The Semitic languages Arabic and, and, and Hebrew are built from roots.
The three letters, the 'h' and the 'm'...mem, and the tzadik hamitz is the hummus. And I will tell you why. First, because 'til today, the Hebrew proper name from hummus is himtza. You have this consonant of 'tz' in this name 'til today, as in hamitz.
Second thing is that in the Bible, usually vinegar is described as something you don't put in your mouth. You don't eat. It described as something with bad taste. It is said in one place that the, the, the, the vinegar in your...on your teeth, is like smoke in your eyes.
But then I think that if you have this big field, and you employ workers in hard agricultural work, at lunchtime, you have to give them good, substantial food. You don't give them vinegar if you want them to keep on working in the afternoon as well. You must give them good food.
Now, meat was scarce these days. You didn't mea-, eat meat every day, not even every week. Hummus is the, the ideal food for workers, as it is today. It is rich. It is...it makes you full. It makes you feel good. And I think that Boaz gave his worker hummus, and this description of [talks in Hebrew]...'Dip your bread in the, in the hummus', is exactly as today!
You dip your pita in the plate. It's, I guess, what made this beautiful, round movement of the pita in the plate. Put her...put it in, in your...her mouth.
And I also think that if you invite a, a woman you like, to, to a first date...this is what we see here, it's the first date of Boaz and Ruth...they will marry later, by the way, and they will be the great-grandparents of King David...this is not just another love story...you don't give her bread with vinegar, you know.
It's not proper for a first date. You give her something good to eat, and hummus was a very good food.
Now, I believe...and this is not...this, I think, I may say humbly...maybe I'm wrong, but I think this is...this interpretation I gave here is, is a new interpretation...but there is another place where the word 'hummus' is mentioned in the Bible.
And this was interpreted by higher authority than I am...Professor Felix, a well-known Bible researcher, and an expert of botany and zoology. And here, it says, in the Book of Isaiah, that 'in the days to come, when everything will be plentiful, and we will have a lot of rain and a lot of grain, and a lot of wheat, and a lot of crops', he says...
[talks in Hebrew] [Interpretation] 'And the bulls and the donkeys who are working in the field...will eat a mixture of hamitz'.
Here we have again, the same consonants of hummus, of chometz, of himtza, and here it is hamitz. You have to remember that in the Bible, in the first versions of the written Bible, we did not have the vowels. We have only the consonants. This is how our language is behaving. Don't blame me. It's [background noise], it's, it's something I cannot explain now. It is aside the point.
And Professor Felix says that this ? [unclear] hamitz, a mixture of hamitz, is the hummus. And a mixture, it mean something like, like a porridge. Something which is soft, and, and you can...now we know that the plant hummus...himtza in Hebrew...
...the chickpea was known here for about 4,000 years. The problem is whether our ancestors already knew how to mash it, and add some tahina, and olive oil, and garlic, and lemon, and salt, whatever, you know...the secret form-, formulas of, of hummus. Or maybe they et- [sic], ate it as, as the seed.
You know, maybe they burnt it in fire. Maybe they cooked it. We still cook it today, and eat it with black pepper and, and salt. It's very good.
And, and I feel that it's not such an ingenious unpredictable idea to, to mash the cooked hummus peas, and make it as a porridge, and eat it. We do the same with potatoes. We do the same with, with beans. This is something which is very easy to do.
So it's my belief that the hummus is another one of the biblical foods.
Why did you write the story, where did it appear, and what was the response?
So, so I published it, I think, about eight or ten years ago.
After this book was, was published, about...or maybe I even published it in a book years before...I have to, to look later......about eight to ten years, or even earlier. I published it because I thought it's an interesting new interpretation of a biblical scene. And then I, I published it as an article. And the title was a little provocative. The title was, 'The Hummus is Ours', because, you know, all the time we have these fights, which for me are very funny.
I think that the Ten Commandments are a contribution of the Jewish people to the world, which is far more interesting and, and significant than hummus, you know. So I, I don't really insist of possessing the hummus as my own invention.
All I want to...I mean, if other people want it, they're invited to possess it. I will settle for the Ten Commandments, and the Hebrew Alphabet, and the Bible in, in general, and, and Albert Einstein, you know. We have some contributions.
Still, I thought it's an interesting interpretation of the love story of, of Boaz and Ruth, sitting in the field, eating hummus, the same way as we do today. And I also have this nice feeling of, of having the Bible so familiar, you know.
They were eating the same stuff 'we' were eating to-,...I mean, again, if it was something to do with pasta or beef stroganoff or something, then it, it's strange. But they, they come from the same area. They look like us. We talk the same language. Why don't they...why shouldn't they eat hummus like, like we do, today.
Now, of course, when we went to exile, to Europe, we forgot about the hummus. And we discovered sausages, and frankfurters, you know. But still, I'm sure it was a local food at, at, at biblical time. And for me, it was some kind of an intellectual exercise.
But people responded very strongly. First there were some right-wingers...Jewish right-wingers, who became my greatest fans. Usually they hate me, because I'm a left-winger in Israel. Suddenly they found support in my theory about the hummus, because for them it's another proof that this land is ours, you know.
When your ancestors were walking with their sheep in the desert, we were wiping hummus in Bethlehem, like...s-something like this, which for me, has no political relevance.
Then there were some...it also came to the ears of, of Arabs and Palestinians, and people told me that they don't like my interpretation at all.
Then there is this everlasting struggle between Israel and Lebanon...usually Lebanon...of wh-who is making the largest bowl of hummus, which I find completely vulgar, you know. If you, if you compete, whose hummus is the best, the, the, taste, and you have a, a committee of experts, or tasters, then maybe this is, this is the same way you taste wine.
You can taste hummus, and there, there, there is, there is a difference between one hummus and another. But making the largest bowl of hummus...sometimes they prepare a dish of five tons of hummus...I think this is revolting, especially in a, in a hunger-stricken world, and, and, and area, because what do you do with, with it later? You just throw it to the sea or something.
And, and it is not even a, a competition between Israeli Jews and Lebanese Arabs. It is a certain Arab restaurant in Israel, and a certain Arab restaurant in Beirut. So it has no relevance.
Just going back to the response, you talked about the right-wing response. What did your left-wing colleagues have to say?
I don't remember something, something of, of significance. People were amused by this interpretation. And many people said something like, 'This is interesting. Why didn't they teach us the Bible like that in school?'
You know, when we tea-,...when we are taught the Bible in, in high schools and primary schools in Israel, usually we do it with a great respect, and we, we, we think about all these characters as, as holy people, especially the great-grandparents of King David.
We don't relate to them, just ordinary, daily hummus eating. This is too plain, you know. And, and I wanted to show that these people were people, like me and you, who were eating, and falling in love, and drinking.
And later in the second...the next chapter is also very erotic, but it has nothing to do with, with hummus. They did not waste time on hummus in that night.
But still I like it when I read the biblical stories, to, to see that these were people like myself, and my uncles, and my family in the village, and, and people who live here today, with the same aspirations, and desires, and appointment [sic]...disappointments. And, and this is how [coughs] I read the Bible 'til today.
So how strong was the reaction against what you had to say?
It was, it was here and there. I...people told me, 'There are people who are angry about you', or something. But, but I wasn't threatened or something like this. But it stirred the hummus scene for a while.
People were happy about it, or people were angry about it. And, and I thought it...if it makes people more interested in the biblical stories, then I got what I wanted. The, the Bible is far more important for me than the hummus. And I like to eat hummus, and I do it from time to time. But I'm not a, a great connoisseur, and I don't know the best hummus joint in Israel, like some of my friends are.
And, and...but, but, but I liked it. And this book who, who wants to describe...who, who is later...was interes-,...interpreted by Rabbis and scholars, and religious people as, as a book full with a special holy atmosphere of the love, the great-grandparents of King David...
...it does describe in effect a nice, very nice, erotic love story in the springtime in Bethlehem, where an older man and a younger woman are having hummus together in the field. And, and the next day they would be on the threshing floor together.
And then eventually, King David will come out of it as well. But this is, this is less important for me.
Everywhere I go, people tell me in the hummus industry, 'You know hummus is mentioned in the Bible?' And I can't help thinking, is this Meir Shalev?
It comes from my article. No doubt. It...nobody talked about it before I published it in, in the paper. And I publish in a very big daily paper in Israel. The biggest, called Yedioth Ahronoth. It covers...maybe one-third of, of the population of Israel read Yedioth Ahronoth in the weekend. This is when, when I publish my column. And, and I, I'm sure it started there. So if this is my contribution to biblical interpretation, then I'm very happy about it.
And it's also your contribution to the hummus war?
To the hummus war! But still, I'm not...again, I must tell you, I, I'm not really interested to win this war. I'm...I, I, I don't mind really...I also think that many of the Palestinians who live here today, are descendants of the Jews who lived here in biblical times. So I don't really mind, because we share the same bad traits, you know. So we must be brothers.
So I'm not really interested in this. I'm more interested in the, in the cultural contribution, and intellectual contribution of the Jewish people.
How important is the Book of Ruth and the story of Boaz, in terms of the Bible, and to Jewish heritage?
The story of Ruth is very important, because Ruth was not a Jewish girl. She was a Moabite. Now the Bible forbids us to marry Moabite men or women, very specifically...not only don't marry non-Jews, but don't marry Ammonites and Moabites, specifically.
So I guess in biblical times, the question of King David, our greatest King, carrying in his holy genes, some Moabite chromosomes, you know. I guess, this was painful information for many people.
I mean, I think the idea King David was born as a result of this hummus eating in the field many years later. It just proves to you that, that marrying a Moabite girl from time to time, is a good addition to, to our genetics.
But, but at the time this story was written and, and published in the Bible, I think this was very meaningful. So there are interpretation [sic] of saying that Ruth, for example went some, on...through some kind of conversion from one religion to Judaism, which of course is not true, because such a process of conversion did not exist in biblical times.
People moved quite freely from one culture, one religion, to, to another. And, and I also think that, that for me, it is very important, because in other books of the Bible, you may see another way of trying to solve, to cope with this problem of our King being from a, a Moabite heritage.
They will cut it off. They will whitewash it. They will use scissors if needed. Here, the author is an ingenious author. He, he admits all the time that this was an Moabite woman. But he describes her in...
So, so, the Bible describes Ruth in such a loving way, telling us that she's a Moabite girl, and we fall in love with her. You know, we read this book, and everybody, not only Boaz in her time, but readers of today and any other generation, fall in love with Ruth.
And when in the end of this short story, it is found out that she is the great-grandmother of King David, we are already deeply in love with her. And we say, let's have more Moabites like 'this' woman, you know [background noise].
Let's talk about Mr Fadi Abboud. Fadi Abboud is the Minister for Tourism in Lebanon, and he says, 'The Israelis have stolen our land, they've stolen our culture, and now they're stealing our hummus'. What's your response to that?
Well, I think that...if we're talking about politics, then this is something completely different. I think we have to negotiate with the Palestinian people. And I think we have...we must have two states...Palestinian state and Jewish-Israeli state next to it. And this has nothing to do with the hummus.
If Mr Abboud is, is insulted or hurt by the fact that, that Israelis are eating and manufacturing hummus, I think this is a mistake, because we also eat in McDonald's, and we eat Hungarian ghoulash, and, and we, we eat pasta...a lot of pasta, not less I think than, than, than hummus. And we eat asado. And this is how it goes, all over the world.
And I think food should be a, a factor that is making people closer together, and not pushing them apart. I think, even if you think that, that hummus is really an Arab food, and we have nothing to do with it, I would say, he should be proud that so many other people are interested in this food!
Whenever I go to Italy, I meet Italians who are very happy to see that pizza is so favoured and, and loved by people all around the world. It's...much more than hummus, by the way. Pizza maybe, is one of the...or sushi in Japan...sushi also became a cosmopolitan kind of, of food.
And, and if we had such a food if my nation had such a food, I would also be very proud of it. So...
So, you don't think there's a real connection between the hummus war and...a lot of people do make that connection, like Palestinians make that connection, and the Lebanese...the Lebanese get very passionate about hummus...
I will tell you something. There is another Arabic food called mulukhiyah. Mulukhiyah is a great soup, made from leaves of a special plant called mulukhiyah. You don't have it, I guess, in, in Australia.
It's...it has a little bit of a texture of saliva, when you cook it. So many Israelis don't like it. I like it a lot. It has a great taste. Salty taste.
One day, I was in...Umm al-Fahm is a, is a Arab town, not far away from here. On the way from Jerusalem to here, I used to stop there and buy my vegetables. And I saw mulukhiyah on, on the bench.
And I ask...I had it in restaurants and in private homes, but I never cooked it. So I asked the man if this is mulukhiyah. He said 'Yes'. But he looked at me with sort of m-mockery and suspicion. He said, 'What are you going to do with it?' I said, 'I want to cook it'. He said, 'How will you cook it?' I said, 'You will tell me how to cook it, and I will cook it'.
So he, he smiled, and he said, 'Okay'. I took out my, my notebook, started to write. And immediately...and all the women in this shop, in, in...all the clients were Arabs. I was the, the only Jewish buyer. There was an older woman...said, 'He doesn't know how to make mulukhiyah. I will give you the, the recipe for mulukhiyah'.
And immediately, two other guys came, said, 'No, no, no, no! Come with us to the, to the other side of the street. We will tell you how to make mulukhiyah, because it's, it's also...it's a very sort of A-Arabic food. It comes from Egypt, by the way, and it's very good'.
And I got, like, seven different recipes for mulukhiyah. Very much alike, you know. It's like me competing with my cousins of...whose chicken soup is the best, because we have our tradition of chicken soup, and, and we fight about it.
So, the, the...and, and then we're all very happy of me buying mulukhiyah in their shop, started learning how to do it, and go home and, and try to do it. And I did visit them later, and I said they had a very good mulukhiyah, and I, I came for more.
This is what I like about the hummus war, because it can happen, you know, so-called, between nations, but it can happen between...in a neighbourhood, or it can happen in a family. Can you talk about that?
I have friends who can sit for hours...and these are people who go to the best restaurants in Tel Aviv, and also abroad...but they will argue f-, with, with great heat, with fever, about which hummus is, is, is better. Ta'ami or Pinati, in Jerusalem. Or Abu Saeed in Acko, or, or Edhem, Adham in, in Kfar Yasif, to neighbouring places.
I don't have the expertise, but I can tell you some of the places in Israel that I like, and, and I alway I'm always ready to, to try others. And I don't have this hummus palette, you know, of, of telling you that this hummus was harvested in 19-, you know, -'74, and was treasured in oak barrels or something like that. I don't have it...I don't have it with wines either, you know [laughs].
But still, it's the only food today in Israel that will unite people in this kind of controversial talks. People are ready to argue about hummus, and which is the best hummus. And it's nice.
And people from all...it is also a great equaliser, because these will be people who are simple workers, with blue collars, and also heads of departments in hospital, or philosophers from the university, or millionaires from, from the high-tech, and poor people from...for homeless people from Tel Aviv.
They all eat hummus. It's cheap. It's...it fills you up. And they will argue which hummus is the best.
Can you talk about the regional significance of this common food?
Well I think hummus should not be a reason of hatred, and conflict, and separation. We, we c-,...instead of people clutching their hummus to their chests, or, or looking at their hummus, like in a poker game, and don't reveal it to nobody, why don't we share it?...you know.
We have good hummus made by Israelis, good hummus made by Lebanese, by, by Eg-,...Jordanians and Palestinians. And I think hummus can help you create an identity for the whole Middle East, not, not separate the Middle East to different societies and, and, and different people who are in eternal fight with each other.
And, and I think in this respect, hummus should 'not' be a reason, should not be a you know. It, it, it should be a reason for sitting around a table together, you will taste my hummus, I will taste your hummus, and indeed...and then we will hit each other on the heads because mine was better than yours, of course.
And indeed, in Israel, many times, the, the, the idea of eternal peace, which was phrased by Isaiah in the Bible, is that the, the lamb will, will dwell with the lion, and things, there's...we say that our vision of peace is having hummus in Damascus, you know.
The day we will be able to go to Damascus, and eat a hummus plate in the market...you see, means I have this, this movement with my wrist, you know, because whenever you say hummus, immediately, you do like this. It, it goes together.
This is the idea of, of, of peace. Now, of course, it, it will be a very pleasant idea to take my car from here, drive to, to Damascus...the way you drive from Antwerp to Amsterdam, for example...buying the hummus, and, and, and coming back. But, but I hope this will be something bigger than that. That it will not be only, only hummus.
Hummus is nice. But, but still, I would like to tour Syria, culturally and historically, freely, all, all around. And I will know of course, that Abraham was walking on these paths as well. But it will not make me a conqueror of his paths in, in the 21st century. I think we have to be more relaxed about, about these issues.
Now there is another thing I must say about the hummus, and maybe you can edit it later. Why is it called himtza?
So the, the Hebrew word himtza, which is the, the word for, for hummus, means 'sour'. Hamutz is sour in Hebrew. And it comes because of two reasons, I guess. These are the interpretations.
One is that hummus g-gets sour after a very short time. It's, it's the...from, from the family of lentils, and beans, and peas. And this is the big family of, of the hummus.
If you come a little later to the restaurants, the hummus will already be sort of, with a foul taste, and it becomes sour. And this is why it is called himtza.
Also because that if you walk in a field of hummus, of fresh green hummus, it will burn your skin a little...give you a sour feeling of the skin.
How has this conflict, which has been going on for a very long time, impacted on you personally?
Well, first...these are life with [sic] an element of, of worry and anxiety. I'm worried when my children are going here and there in Israel, or when they go on a plane, or...things like this.
Then, there is the cost of joining the army, and participating in, in wars. I lost two uncles and three cousins, and, and one of my uncle lost a, lost an eye, and his, his balance, in 1948. He's still alive, and suffer from it.
I was wounded in my, my army service. I was shot by four bullets in, in my legs. So there, there is a personal...there is a personal cost. But, but, you know, I, I never think about leaving this, this land. I don't want people to misunderstand me.
This i-,...I, and I would have not talked about it, unless you asked for me to talk about it. It's not something that is on my shoulders all the time. Still, the way my wife, and children, and work, affect my life, is far more significant and important, than the way the conflict influences my wife my life. Yeah.
I will tell you, when I visited Australia 10 years ago, and I also spent time in, in a town called Perth, and I was in Broome, and then I, I spent a lot of time in the Kimberley area, on an Oka truck, which I think is a great Australian contribution...I'm a fan of off-road driving, and I really like this truck...
...and I heard many Australians complaining about the danger of the Aborigines reclaiming the lands of Australia. And I thought to myself, you know, me coming from Israel with real enemies, how can I hear this, this talk about these poor Aborigines, where such a really poor, small minority in, in Australia, you know...I said nothing.
But, but I couldn't help thinking about it.
Yeah, hummus, hummus is a food which is loved by everybody. It's...sometimes you eat a national dish of somebody, and you don't really like it. But, but hummus, you like it. People like it. It doesn't matter where they come from.
Why do you think Israelis have become so passionate about their hummus, and what does this reflect about contemporary Israel?
I think hummus gave Israelis the...a sense of belonging here, being a part of this area, because our great-grandparents, and grandparents, and some of us, our parents, and some of us, it's ourselves, came from another place.
They came here from Poland and from Yemen. The people who came from Arabic countries knew the hummus in, in their places. But the people who came from Europe, or America, or Australia, or, or Canada, most of them did not know the hummus.
They liked it. People, as I told you, liked hummus from the first wipe. And, and, and, and they saw that the Arabs are eating hummus, and it gave them a feeling of belonging to this land, to this area. And, and th-th-they ate it, and, and they liked it.
This is one thing. And then maybe, that really when you say, the day of having the hummus in Damascus, is not only being able to go there freely without endangering your life, but it is also showing the people of Damascus, we appreciate your food, you know.
We, we came all from the Jerusalem or from Tel Aviv to, to have your food. We hope you will come now, to our place, and try 'our' hummus, or our, whatever...you know.
Anyway, Israelis do not have yet something they may call the Israeli kitchen because the Israeli kitchen is, is a mixture of foods from all over the world...wherever Jews came from.
So we have Yemenite food, and Polish food, and, and, and French food, and Ita-Italian food, and Indian food, all brought here by Jewish immigrants to, to Israel. And we eat Arabic food that we found here, like the hummus.
So, so I think it will take another few dozens of years, that we can say, now we have our kitchen, which, which will take the best from, from, from everywhere.
But what I get a sense of, is that Israelis like their hummus, you know. It's a sense of commonality. I think forging national identities...
.it helps us all, so to, to forge...we have some...several elements like this. For example, the Hebrew language, which we revived, after being in a coma for 2,000 years, and it gives us, us a very strong sense of identity, and also a great pride, because it's the only language that really was resuscitated by its, its users, as a part of the Zionist revolution.
And we have our scientific achievements, and, and we have the hummus, yes. It's...even though, when we came here, we met...maybe we re-met the hummus, according to 'my' interpretation. Maybe we discovered it for the first time. But still, it became an important, significant, beloved element in...on our table.
Did you grow up eating hummus?
No. I did not grow up eating hummus. I had a little hummus. My, my father came from Jerusalem...was born in Tiberias, and, and came to Jerusalem, and he was three years old. My mother was born here in this...the Valley of Jezreel in, in this area, to a farming pioneer ideological family.
In my mother's...in both families, who came originally from P-, from Russia, they were eating the East European Jewish food. Chicken soup and gefilte fish, and, and stew, and the borscht, and things like this, which I love v-,...I, I must tell you.
These foods, even though from, from, from Russia and Poland, where, where I never lived, I like much more than hummus, personally, because it's part of my childhood and, and my sentimentality, and, and nostalgia, and, and whatever.
But my father was introduced to Middle Eastern food, because he lived in a neighbourhood in Jerusalem, full with Sephardic Jews...the Jews of the Arabic countries, and the Mediterranean peninsula...where he discovered the kebab, and the hummus, and the shishlik, and the rice, and the chilli, the, the hot spices, and the... And all his life, he preferred the Middle Eastern Arabic food to the foods of his mother.