Make Hummus Not War
a documentary by Trevor Graham
Filmmaker Trevor Graham is an Australian 'hummus tragic'. Every week in his Bondi Beach home he obsessively observes the hummus making ritual-mashing chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic and tahina...with just a touch of cumin. But when the 'Hummus War' erupted in the Middle East in 2008, amongst the usual suspects, Israel, Lebanon and Palestine, Graham was intrigued and hungry for more. He discovers a war in the kitchen, just as ferocious as any Arab-Israeli conflict. But this war has no soldiers, bullets, rockets or tanks. Just CHICK PEAS and HUMMUS!
Palestinians eating hummus in 1935
Courtesy of Elia Photo Service Jerusalem
Hummus is one of the oldest known prepared foods in human history, stretching back to the Crusades. Israelis, Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Palestinians, Turks and Iraqis, all claim it as their own. For Claudia Roden, doyenne of Middle Eastern cuisine, "Every recipe tells a story and chickpeas are so common in the Arab world that they could be a symbol of it." In the 21st century, hummus is a fashionable food commodity, manufactured and sold everywhere.
But the Middle East is a place where passions are quick to ignite. And so, where there is hummus, there is also intense rivalry - over who has the best recipe, which nationality invented it, and who can make the biggest bowl of it. In 2008, the Association of Lebanese Industrialists ignited the hummus war, by deciding to sue Israel in an international court, claiming Israeli food manufacturers were promoting traditional Arab cuisine as Israeli products.
Make Hummus Not War is Graham's journey though the hummus bars and kitchens of, Beirut, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and New York. Along the way he encounters Claudia Roden and other well known gastronomes like Janna Gur. He meets zealots, Jewish settlers, biblical characters, political activists, novelists and Sheiks, for whom hummus is a near religious obsession.
But the heat in the kitchen is sometimes blistering. Graham finds himself unwittingly drawn into the bigger Arab-Israel conflict. The hummus war, he concludes, is a battle over history, national honour, myth and religious faith. Does that sound familiar?
More than a culinary journey, to taste delicious hummus, Graham has a quest to find some answers; who owns hummus, and who, Jew or Arab, has the most mouth watering secret recipe? Are people who adore the same food, destined to share the same fate? Graham ponders a whacky proposition...could a regional love of hummus be the long yearned for solution to peace in the Middle East?
Make Hummus Not War is a humorous homage to the chickpea's most distinguished dish. But there's a personal story within the 'hummus war' story, how Graham became a hummus tragic: a father who served as a soldier in Palestine during World War 2 and two lovers, one Syrian, one Jewish, with whom he shared a great culinary passion.
A trans media project, Make Hummus Not War encompasses a feature documentary, TV hour and an interactive website. The feature film premieres at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August 2012 and the website will launch concurrently. The film is also available for TV and festival release in August.