Hummus Glorious Hummus

explores the history and the future of one of your favourite dips

Image: Humpit

Hummus is a dish which is taking the world by storm. A traditional Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dip, it has been eaten for hundreds of years, with the oldest recorded recipe dating back to 13th century Cairo. It’s a relatively simple dish, with the main ingredient being chickpeas (hummus is Arabic for chickpeas), mashed and combined with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and tahini, a dip in its own right made from toasted sesame seeds.

Hummus is becoming more and more of a staple of the Western diet now too, with Brits collectively consuming 12 000 tonnes of hummus a year. It’s relatively healthy, containing mainly carbohydrates and protein (it’s also 65 per cent water), supposedly even having the requisite amino acids to rival Prozac, while also offering an arguably more ethical alternative to guacamole as a dip. Head into any supermarket or smaller retailer, and it’s a fairly common sight to see shelf upon shelf of hummus, ranging from traditional (my personal fave) through caramelised onion (another classic) to sun dried tomato to beetroot (have to say, not a massive fan of this one).

York has embraced the hummus revolution. The University recently gained its first ratified Hummus Appreciation Society, following in the wake of Durham last November. York’s HumSoc began with a group of students realising their love for hummus and wanted to make to make it together, eventually blossoming into a fully fledged society. President Imogen Goodwin told me she thinks hummus has exploded due to the growing health consciousness of consumers: “hummus has suddenly grown in popularity it because more and more people are starting to really look at what they eat, and so many other popular spreads have very high salt and sugar levels. Also, as hummus is so versatile, and you can find so many different flavours, people are becoming more drawn to it.”

In February, York has its very own hummus restaurant open its doors. Following in the wake of outlets in Leeds then Sheffield, Humpit opened their biggest and most ambitious site yet. Humpit began life in 2014 as a father and son business with a vision of replicating the traditional Israeli serve – big bowl of hummus with warmed pita – beginning just a gazebo, a toaster, and a fryer. Popularity grew to offer a wider range, and their first permanent outlet opened in the Leeds Corn Exchange. A year later they were named Virgin’s Start-Up Street Food Winner 2015, branching out to Sheffield in 2016, Leeds Students’ Union in 2017, and eventually York earlier this year, with plans to expand across Yorkshire, and a converted shipping container allowing them to take Humpit on a “road trip”, starting in Manchester this summer.

Humpit’s Marketing Coordinator Cat Miller told me how they quickly realised that all of their food was accidentally vegan, reaching out to the vegan community but also operating as a regular restaurant to the public: veganism isn’t their core aim, just a happy coincidence. Cat pointed to veganism as a catalyst for the hummus revolution, telling me that she thinks “the whole vegan revolution is obviously a big part of it; people are becoming a lot more aware of sustainability and ethics. I also think [it’s about embracing] different cultures as well; [hummus is] semi good for you and it’s so versatile, you can put it in everything, you can do whatever flavour you want, it’s so easy.”

Humpit are planning to really make a feature of their York store, with events in the pipeline such as vegan speed dating, film screenings, and a sustainable fashion show. The University of York may even be getting in on the Humpit action: they catered Big D and are booked for Graduation and Freshers’ Festival, with potential to even expand to become a more permanent fixture on campus. They’re also the official sponsors of HumSoc.

Hummus looks as if it’s a revolution here to stay: just as the 2000s heralded the rise of the designer coffee, the 2010s and into the 20s looks to begin the age of sustainable eating. But even beyond that, it’s just a great food. I think the best way to wrap up is Cat’s closisng remark to me: “Honestly I eat so much of it every day it’s outrageous!”