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Shooky Galili

Hummus 101 Blog

Shooky Galili

Shooky Galili is a 36 year old journalist from Tel-Aviv, who lives with 1 girl and 4 cats. Shooky, whose writing specializes in food, politics and technology, is the founder of Hummus 101 a blog dedicated to hummus. He calls himself a 'hummus activist'. His comedic talent and knowledge of the best hummus bars in Tel Aviv make him a key hummus accomplice, "Trying to make a copyright claim over hummus is like claiming for the rights to bread or wine. Hummus is a centuries old Arab dish-nobody owns it, it belongs to the region."

the Interview

Tel Aviv, September 2011

So, Shooky, can you tell me what this is, (one of the blogs about the hummus war) and what it says?

Okay. Th-This-This is...these are the comments. This is the...where I review the comments and approve them. This is the, the kind of comments I sometimes...

'It sucks to see how Israel has convinced mainstream India that most of the Mediterranean delish- [sic], delicacies like hummus, are actually Israeli native foods. Who did it? The, the Israeli army?'

Okay. I, I'm approving this 'cause he doesn't use foul language. So...and we are in favour of freedom of speech, even if you say things that are very immature. I say, okay.

Written, 'Oh I just enjoyed some hummus for lunch.' Many people telling us about their, their own diets. Not, not always fascinating. But, you know, 'Just made hummus'. 'I'm just making hummus now'. 'Did you mean ready-made tahini or raw tahini?' 'No, no, with the food processor on'.

Many different kinds of, of comments. Sometimes wonderful things, you know. Nutritionists, psychiatrist...one of them just put a comment about the idea of using hummus instead of Prozac, or as a supplement. And he says it actually an interesting idea.

You were going to show me the comment about hard-ons, and tell me about this?

Comment about, about hard-ons?

You had a blog about hard-ons.

I had a, a blog passed about, about...just a moment...actually, I have many of them, but mostly in the Hebrew version of the blog. But I think the needs of, of, of Israeli readers who already know what hummus is, etcetera, make difference. So we have to be a little bit funny from time to time. And, and it 'is' funny, although...let's see...

Oh, it's in Hebrew. 'It's serious, and it works. Hummus instead of Viagra', okay. So the point is, is that hummus has two molecules. It's citrulline and arginine, which are considered good for, for sexual health, okay.

So, what, what basically happened, is that I read an article about watermelons, and that they, they are good for, for having a nice hard-on, okay. And the explanation said, it has citrulline in it.

And is this true from a personal perspective?

I don't know. M-May-,...I don't know if I have hard-ons because I eat hummus, or....in spite. I don't know if I have...if, if the hard-ons I get are, are because I eat hummus, or, or in spite of eating hummus. But I believe it doesn't hu-hurt, okay. So this is about hummus and , sexual health. 'Hummus will, will help you have male children', okay. It's important for 'some' people in the Middle East...ability to have a male child instead of a female.

Why did you start the blog?

People used to ask me, 'Where can I find good hummus, if I'm around this city or this place?' And, 'Do you have a good recipe for hummus?'...and so on. And the blog was intended to make it easier for me to answer people. To make it easier to...other people to find the information they wanted, that was about hummus. And as it went on, people started sharing information, which I never knew about. New places, new ideas and so on.

So this is kind of a solution for, for a real community that, that exists, of, of hummus fans. We have many, many people that, that f-for, for whom hummus is a part of, of their daily life, not only the food, but it's, it's kind of a sub-culture.

How many people do you have using the site, both in English and Hebrew, and is it Israelis, or is it around the world?

I have two versions of the site, that is the, the Hebrew version, which naturally is used by Israelis. Up 'til now, I think it's around a million, million different surfers that came to the site.

Every month, it's, it's a-around 30- or 40,000 people coming to the site. The English version is a little bit large, and naturally there's people from all over the world coming, especially from the, the States, and English speaking countries. But people come from everywhere. It's unbelievable. I have a map I can show...

Do you get people from Australia surfing?

Yeah. Yeah, of course, naturally. 5,146 since March, came from Australia.

Now it's, it's interesting 'cause the, the, the audiences are very different. The, the American audiences I get are from Israelis, and American Palestinians, and American...other A-American Arabs. But also vegetarians and vegans, and you know, people are...who are crazy about health issues. And I sort of went on with it, because first of all, hummus is really healthy, okay. And second, you, you always have funny researches about how a certain thing is good for digestive problems, depression or fertility.

Sexual, sexual health is very important. So I have had a post, why eat hummus and not take Prozac, 'cause technically, hummus and other legumes contain tryptophan, which is the building block of, of serotonin.

So it's basically true. If you eat enough hummus, you might feel a little better, and you won't need Prozac, okay. And there's also a post why hummus will give you a good hard-on.

Nutrition experts also explain how you have to have some source of carbohydrates and source for...source of proteins and amino acids. And the...it's good to eat some kind of bread with legumes, and some grains.

Now you have different, different settings, different combinations. But the combination you get, when you eat hummus, is very basic. And, and it's, it's, it's a full meal nutrition there.

And pita bread with, with hummus, which is a good source of protein and, and amino acids, and the tahini, which is...it's from sesame, it's a grain...grains also have all the minerals, and in this case, other amino acids...and olive oil, which is the, the star of the, the Mediterranean diet and so on.

So, there, there's also the, the hummus diet, you know. There's, there's a diet according to your blood type. And, I don't know if it's, if it's that good. But I knew some people who did it. One of them was a, a doctor, by the way. And he didn't eat meat, so he ate hummus instead. And he, he doesn't really think, so it, it probably works. And I wrote about it. And, and some people replied afterwards, and said, they tried it and it works.

You're only meant...have to remember, not to eat too much of, of the pita bread, okay, because the hummus itself is not fattening.

The Hebrew version of the blog is called 'Hummus for the Masses'. It's, it's entailed for Israeli audience, for which hummus itself is not much of a surprise. And reading things about hummus, this is something they do, okay.

You, you also have information from time to time about hummus in, in Israeli newspapers, for example. The English name is simply, 'The Hummus Blog'. It's much more easy to understand.

Do you get people arguing on the blog, about where to get the best hummus? And the origins of hummus...where it comes from?

The arguments about who owns hummus, who invented hummus and so on, is something Israeli don't really...is something that Israeli don't really do. Most Israelis w-would agree that this is an Arab dish.

Now if by chance it's us who invented it, this is really cool. But it has nothing to do with the fact that if you want to eat good hummus, you should, you should usually do it in a, in a Arab hummus place...in a Palestinian hummus place, because people will tell you, Arabs make, make better hummus. This is a fact.

The argument about...these kind of arguments, who invented it and so on, this is something mainly I think, American Jews and American Arabs do, okay, mainly because when you don't actually live in the Middle East, things look a bit different. And people tend to, to deal with, with questions as...aren't that important, okay. There are far more important issues in the Middle East.

As for Israelis, Israelis argue about which hummus is better, and, and mostly you have, people like ....Many Israelis, Israelis like to stab a needle in, in the balloon, and say, 'Okay, I went to this hummus place that everybody talks about. It's not that good. Mine is better.'

Tthis is kind of a sport.

Tell me what you think, about the hummus war, that exists between Israel and Lebanon, and the Palestinians...the various claims on all sides, and why you think it started?

First of all, the best war we had here, no casualties after this point.

The Israeli public was not very excited with it, because the, the question, who invented hummus, and who owns it, is most people think it's quite ridiculous. And, and most people, if you ask them, would tell you that, of course, it's an Arab dish, okay. Who cares who invented it? And claiming that, that somebody owns it is like claiming that somebody owns bread. And this was basically something that was done for public relations, that people started it...Israeli manufacturers of packaged hummus. And on the Lebanese side, Fadi Abboud used it as, as a, as a political campaign, which fought wonderfully for him.

He's now the Minister of Tourism.

Yeah, okay. So it's...it was very effective campaign for him. And n-never had hummus got so, so much...publicity and attention. And also I, I got phone calls from various...like, press round also. So, was really nice.

Fadi Abboud says, 'The Israelis stole our land, they stole our culture, and now they're stealing our food, as in hummus'. What do you think about that?

What I basically said is that I can, I can understand some of the claims. And being left-wing, and opposing many things that, that Israeli governments did, I do have pr-problems, certain problem arguing with, with the Lebanese. I also was very much against the, the Second Lebanon War, okay. So I'm, I'm not in a easy place here, but, but specifically, the, the claims of Fadi Abboud, it's po-populistic, okay.

The reason Israelis like hummus so much, and I identify with it, and consider it a national food, it's more that they are owned by hummus, than, than, than claiming ow-ownership upon it, okay.

Who makes better hummus? Is it Israeli Jewish, or Arabs?

Usually it's Arabs. I believe most Israelis when asked, would, would tell you with no hesitations, that Arabs make better hummus. If you ask me what's my favourite hummus place, then, then it's a place owned by a Palestinian. So, there, there's nothing wrong with admitting that somebody makes better hummus than you, okay, especially if, if it's something that, that he, he, he's done all his life, and in, in some cases, his father also used to make hummus. You have less Israelis that, that bring hummus from home, okay, that has the, the memory of the hummus their mo-mother made, okay...although you 'do' have Israelis that come from Arab countries where, where they ate hummus, okay.

So I don't think there's an argument. Most good hummus places are, are Palestinians, owned by Arabs, okay. You have some Jewish 'slash' Israeli people who make very good hummus. And I think people don't put politics into their hummus. They go to the hummus place that where they like to sit, and which hummus they like best. This is what important.

From an outsider's point of view, I find it ironic that there is this big conflict between Palestinians, and Jews, and Israelis. But Palestinians give Israelis so much pleasure through the hummus?

Yeah. But, but you can also think about it differently. This is something that we can learn...and, and we learn from, from Palestinians, okay. And I think when, when you sit at someone's place and eat his hummus, you have to, you have to pay some respect, naturally, okay. It's, it's, it's kind of saying, well, that's good hummus. This is a serious man, okay. So, so you can't behave with, with disrespect. And this is sort of a channel in, in which people communicate. Not the best one, naturally, okay.

Shooky Galili

Bilateral meetings might, might be more intelligent. But nevertheless, it's also interesting to see people sitting around a table at, at some hummus places...people that are much different, you know.

The difference between a, a businessman sitting at Abu-Hassan's with his suit and tie, the gap between him and other people...they might be more fascinating than the theoretical gap between an Israeli or and a Palestinian, okay.

The Israeli Palestinian conflict is not the only problem we have here, okay.

Why do you think hummus has become so popular for Israelis? What's the attraction?

It's healthy, it's cheap, and also it's tasty. Now, being cheap, this, this is the second most...second cheapest street food you have. The first one is falafel, also made from chickpeas. And, and I say that legume diet, or, or legume cuisine is something native here.

And the agents of hummus usually were students, okay. This is something you eat when you are a poor student. So, so it's ideal. Also I have this, this friend who owns a hummus place in Jaffa who says...is very modern, but, but he's Muslim and, and a little bit religious. And he says, 'This is God's gift to the poor people'.

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