The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 14, 2013

Joe Hadsall: Hummus at center of controversy? Hummus?

By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor

JOPLIN, Mo. — I had no idea there was such controversy behind hummus.

There's a lot more that I should be geeking out over, thanks to all the tech-related news that's out there right now. I should be writing about the new Apple systems, how they are trying to look like Windows 8 and how Apple fanboys are OK with that; or how Microsoft and Sony are squaring off in the next-gen console war (Microsoft's Xbox One is losing badly to Playstation 4).

But I'm absolutely fascinated with the controversy behind hummus. Mainly because I love hummus. It's delicious.

I don't even know why I like it so much, because it's basically a paste made out of beans, and I hate beans. Something about the tahini, lemon, garlic and olive oil removes all the beany texture, and leaves it tasting wonderful.

I chow down on it with toasted pita, throw extra minced garlic in it and eat it with chips, and even spread it across steaks and chicken. One of the main reasons I get the Mediterranean platter so often at M&M Bistro is because of the helping of hummus.

In fact, I'm writing this at about 3 a.m. in the morning, and I am so tempted to drive to Food 4 Less and pick some up right now. It's that good.

A brand named Sabra has taken off stateside. Its tubs of hummus are probably not very authentic, but they are selling well -- 60 percent of the market, according to a report from Saki Knafo of The Huffington Post. The company announced an $86 million expansion of its Virginia factory, including 140 new jobs.

As it turns out, Sabra's company leader, Ronen Zohar, has been walking a delicate line between expanding American palates to the dip while downplaying some of the company's more controversial aspects, including a direct tie to some of the Middle East conflicts that have ripped the region apart.

I feel comfortable declaring a side in only one facet of this battle: I think Athenos' roasted garlic hummus is much better than Sabra's. But I can't find Athenos anywhere in this area, so I'm stuck with Sabra's glop of garlic in the middle. That is the real hummus controversy, as far as I'm concerned.