Hummus hits the headlines

Gabe Friedman

A bowl of hummus (Shutterstock)

Hummus is increasingly popular among American consumers. It’s also getting caught up in Middle East and world conflicts.  (Shutterstock)

According to a new report by the food and restaurant consulting firm Baum and Whiteman, hummus – the Middle Eastern spread that is central to both Israeli and Arab cuisine — is now more popular in the United States than salsa. Today, 20 percent of U.S. households have hummus in their refrigerators, compared to 12 percent eight years ago.

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But not all the hummus news is good news.

In response to months of protest from the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine organization, Wesleyan University announced last week that Sabra will no longer be its exclusive hummus provider. Sabra is a target of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists because it is co-owned by the Israel-based Strauss Group, which has provided care packages to the Golani Brigade, an infantry unit of the Israel Defense Forces. Several universities had already attempted to boycott the Sabra hummus brand, with Princeton University’s campaign in 2010 making the most headlines.

Sabra isn’t the only hummus brand to court controversy.

This summer, before the debate at Wesleyan was settled and during the height of Operation Protective Edge in July, Tribe hummus, also an Israeli company, launched an advertising campaign in New York whose slogans, such as “You’re either a member or you’re not” and “If you don’t have enough for everyone, that’s just too bad for everyone,” rubbed many BDS activists the wrong way. Many of these advertisements were defaced, and some of them were covered with stickers that said “Apartheid.”

However, the darkest chapter in the history of hummus came on Monday, when the chickpea spread was revealed to be a component of a force-feeding torture regimen used by the CIA during the Bush and Cheney years. The details are too explicit to describe here, but they will definitely take away your appetite.