Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Ambulances Chase Him”

Most local made ads are purely awful, or, at best, amusing because they are so awful – one time. Painful after that. This ad cracks me up every time. Imagine, a personal injury lawyer who has a sense of humor about himself:

 

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Marketing | , , | 2 Comments

Six Foods Healthy Eaters Won’t Touch

I love this article from AOL Everyday Health News because they make some great suggestions – like if you really love salted nuts, mix them half and half with unsalted nuts to cut the amount of sodium you take in. We do this with breakfast cereal; we mix Bare Naked Nuts and Fruits with Quaker Old Fashioned Oats; it still has enough sweetness, and we add a little cinnamon and sunflower seeds to pump it up.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Most of us are familiar with the typical no-no foods like sugared soda or anything deep-fried, but have you ever wondered what the experts steer clear of? Everyday Health’s nutrition mavens dish on the foods they won’t eat, and share tips for making healthier swaps.

1. Hot dogs, bacon, and sausages. Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RDN, CDN, Everyday Health columnist and author of Read it Before You Eat It, said she would never eat these processed meats, and for good reason: A diet high in processed meats like bacon and sausage can increase your risk of dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease, according to recent research.

Processed meats, like pepperoni, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and deli meats, are best left for special or rare occasions like a trip to the ballpark or a family event. If beef or pork hot dogs and sausages are staples in your diet, Taub-Dix suggests chicken dogs or sausages may be healthier bets. But beware the health halo of a food like chicken sausage, she said. Just because food items have some healthy qualities — like baked chips or 100-calorie snack packs — doesn’t mean they’re really good for you.

As with any processed food, watch out for sodium content. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or older, or if you are African American, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Love bacon but hate the health repercussions? Use seasonings and spices like paprika and chipotle to add that smoky flavor to your cooking, suggested Taub-Dix.

2. Sugary coffee creations. “Those fancy blended drinks at coffee shops can have upwards of 400 calories and 15 teaspoons of sugar…yikes!” said Johannah Sakimura, MS, the writer behind the Everyday Health column, Nutrition Sleuth.

Unlike naturally-occurring sugars like those found in fruits (fructose), added sugars — syrups or sugars added to food items during preparation — can be harmful to your health. In fact, the added sugar Americans consume on a daily basis can more than double the risk of death from heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons or 100 calories a day of added sugar for women, and no more than nine teaspoons or 150 calories a day for men.

If you can’t live without your favorite sweet coffee drink, Sakimura recommends indulging less often. “If you want to enjoy one occasionally as a dessert, that’s totally fine…but they definitely shouldn’t be a daily or even weekly order,” she said.

3. Stick margarines. Both Sakimura and Taub-Dix said they avoid trans-fat foods, which can raise your heart disease risk by boosting levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein — LDL) and lowering levels of good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein — HDL).

Sakimura avoids stick margarines because most are still made with partially hydrogenated oils, meaning they’re loaded with trans fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fats you eat to less than one percent of your daily total calories. So, if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, that’s just 20 calories. And since small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some animal products, like meat and dairy, you’re probably meeting the 20-calorie threshold without reaching for factory-produced trans fats like those found in some margarines.

“When I occasionally make a baked good that requires solid fat, such as certain cookie or cake recipes, I always use butter. Butter does contain a large amount of saturated fat, but trans fats are far worse for your health,” she said.

4. Processed pastries. Everyday Health’s nutrition expert Maureen Namkoong, MS, RD, said she never eats processed pastries like Pop-Tarts, Twinkies, Devil Dogs, HoHos, or Hostess Cupcakes.

“The shelf life makes me nervous, too many preservatives, too many chemicals, too little taste,” said Namkoong. She prefers “real” desserts instead of these sugary snacks.

While the jury is out on the long-term effects and risks of preservatives in shelf-stable foods, a good rule of thumb is to eat fewer packaged, processed foods and more whole, fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and oils, and lean meats and fish.

Pay attention to frequency and quantity when you indulge in an unhealthy food.

5. Canned frosting. This is another trans fat offender that Sakimura avoids. When she wants to enjoy a nicely-iced dessert, she makes the icing from scratch.

“Hopefully, the proposed FDA ban on artificial trans fat will be finalized soon and we won’t have to worry about trans fat-laden products any longer,” Sakimura added.

Always read the product label for trans fat info. Why? Because right now, the FDA allows companies to round trans fat down to zero grams if the product contains less than 0.5 grams per serving.

“You have to turn it over and take a look at the label for hydrogenated fat or partially hydrogenated fat – that means trans fat,” Taub-Dix noted. There are bound to be similar products that aren’t loaded with trans fats, so opt for those instead, she suggested.

6. Sugar-packed cereals. Namkoong said she never eats sugary cereals because they’re not filling enough and have too little fiber. “The way I see it, the calories and sugar budget are better spent on a yummy dessert that I’ll enjoy more,” Namkoong said.

Sugary cereals your go-to guilty snack? Lower your sugar intake with this tip: “If you really like sugary cereals, and you know that they aren’t good for you, then mix them in a bowl with a cereal that is very low in sugar,” Taub-Dix recommended, so at least you’re getting less sugar per serving.

How to Change Your Taste for ‘Bad’ Foods
A registered dietitian or nutritionist can create a diet geared to your specific needs, but if that’s not an option then tailor your taste on your own by diluting your favorite foods, said Taub-Dix.

How do you dilute your foods? Basically, as noted above with sugary cereals, mix half of the bad stuff with half of the good stuff.

“If you have high blood pressure, and you know salted nuts aren’t great for you, take a handful of salted nuts and mix in unsalted nuts, too,” recommended Taub-Dix.

By diluting unhealthy snacks, you’re tailoring your tastes and gradually getting used to food that’s healthier. Another tip from our experts: Pay attention to frequency and quantity when you indulge in an unhealthy food.

“It’s not just about the food. It’s about how often you’re having it and how much of it you’re having,” said Taub-Dix.

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Food, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Marketing, Shopping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Kings Lane: Excellent Customer Service

They didn’t even answer the phone. When I called Customer Service to tell them that of the 12 drinking glasses they had sent me, 11 arrived perfectly, one arrived in smithereens, smashed, crushed. I can’t imagine how 11 could be flawless and one could be so badly damaged.

They told me to leave a message, so I did. As I was holding the paperwork in my hand, I was able to give them my order number and what had happened. I told them I didn’t want to return the glasses I received – I totally love them – but would they send me a replacement for the one that arrived in smithereens?

They didn’t call me back. I barely noticed, I was having a busy day, only around six did I think of it and had second thoughts about dealing with them again.

Then early yesterday morning I found their e-mail, sent shortly after I had called, telling me they had no replacements, but they would credit my account for the entire amount and I could give them to charity or use them as I wished.

I was blown away. Who does that?

It’s not like I need more e-mail, but every e-mail they send me has something lovely. These are the glasses I bought:

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No, no, they are not glamorous, but they are perfect for everyday use. They are made of recycled glass, they have wide bottoms and they have little raised fleur-de-lis on them.

Why is this important? I have a cousin; when he was a boy he would talk enthusiastically and knock over his drinking glass. It got to be a family joke. But you can prevent these things. If you have children and want them to learn how to dine with adults, you choose items that will help them succeed – wide bottom glasses, for example, that are not easily tipped over, with details on the outside that will help little hands grasp the slippery outsides without slipping. It’s not that hard, you just have to give it a little thought.

It isn’t that hard to give children tools they need to grow strong and capable, and confident. You give them concepts, you give them knowledge, you give them practice. You also give them a sport, something that will teach them how their body moves and how to bring it under their own control, so that when they reach their teen-aged years, they will move with grace and have learned self-restraint. 🙂

One King’s Lane is also where I found the fabulous bathtub I showed you. I still yearn for this tub!

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And today, oh my sweet heaven, I found a pair of bookshelves I can barely restrain myself from ordering. They are beautiful, and unlike anything I would find in Pensacola, and oh! They hold books!

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March 15, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Family Issues, Generational, Home Improvements, Marketing, Shopping | Leave a comment

They Know What I Like!

I get all kinds of ads, and it is scary how much information they can put together to figure out what I might be interested in. Today I got an ad that headlined this bathtub:

 

 

 

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Is that not gorgeous? I don’t have need of a bathtub . . . but I thought about creating a need . . . only to learn that it is already sold out. But what gorgous lines! I am WOWed.Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 7.40.14 AM

March 5, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Marketing | 2 Comments

Hilarious Pensacola Blog: Dicksblog

Note to my Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabian readers – YES. This is legal. This is what free speech looks like. This anonymous blogger can poke fun – and does – at everyone. He probably will want to remain anonymous because he does not discriminate in who he pokes and won’t have any friends if people figure out who he is, but yes. Yes. YES. This is legal, this is freedom of speech. He won’t go to jail.

Poking fun at appearance-over-substance Mayor Ashton Hayward, who made national news this week as he prayed, and rethought his ban on homeless people using blankets in Pensacola: Dicksblog goes viral:

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February 18, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Florida, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Marketing, Pensacola, Political Issues, Transparency | Leave a comment

Pantone Colors for Fall 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 8, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, color, Cultural, Marketing | Leave a comment

The Shrink-Wrapped Pensacola Specialty Pawn Shop Car

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How cool is this? We saw this car at Taco Rock and loved the optical illusion. We also loved it that the car makes a memorable impression; you’ll think of it and you will think Pensacola Specialty Pawn. It’s an effective ad if you remember who the ad is for 🙂

 

When we walked inside, AdventureMan asked “Whose car is that with the mobster paint job?” and a guy picking up a take-out order grinned and said it was his. He told us it was a shrink-wrap technique – it’s temporary! When you get tired of it and want to try something else, it just peels off and you put something else on. I think that is so totally cool.

 

July 12, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Financial Issues, Humor, Marketing, Pensacola, Technical Issue | | 4 Comments

“We’re Moving On . . . ” at Pensacola Beach

Night before last, night a man was shot at the beach at 3:45 in the morning. According to the (very sketchy) details in the Pensacola News Journal, he had been having a fight with his girlfriend, had finished his fight and was then shot three times by a man he doesn’t know and who has no relationship to him. (This is what I understand from reading the paper; it doesn’t make sense to me, but it also says alcohol was involved.)

I only knew about the shooting because I saw a tiny little article about it on the AOL Local news section. When I went to look at it, it was gone.

In this morning’s paper, there is this sketchy description, and then – in several different sections – local are people quoted as saying “we’re moving on.”

OK I get it. We’re a beach community, and this is peak tourist season as folks pour in here from all the Southern states and other countries to enjoy our fabulous sugar-white sand beaches.

Before the tourists had hit the beach, the crime scene tape was down and a beach excavator had carted off the bloody sand.

I do get it. I really do. The season is short and we don’t want to be known as a beautiful beach where people can get shot. It’s a marketing problem.

There is something, however, that sticks in my craw about the swiftness of the moving on, and the barely there press coverage. A man was killed. Maybe he had been drinking. Maybe he had a fight with his girlfriend. Maybe he was at the beach very late (or very early) in the morning. None of these things seem to have anything to do with him having been shot, other than maybe being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the wrong person had a gun and shot him. It seems a little disrespectful, to me, to move on quite so swiftly. A man lost his life. We don’t know why. Maybe we could just take a little time to figure out what happened and to acknowledge his loss?

June 19, 2013 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Financial Issues, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Marketing, Pensacola | 2 Comments

Good Marketing Campaigns – What’s Your Favorite?

“Red Robin!” I sang, and AdventureMan responded “YUMMMMMMMM!” I had mentioned I am getting ready for my annual hamburger, and he became obsessed with Red Robin and we had to go there. I had the Whiskey River Chicken Salad. If I only have one hamburger a year, I want it closer to the 4th of July. It doesn’t have to make sense to you, but it matters to me. If you only eat one hamburger a year, it has to be a really good hamburger. 🙂

Back to the “YUMMMMMMM!”

Now, that’s good marketing. There is nothing not good about “YUMMMMMMM”

A campaign where you train people to think “YUMMMMM!” every time you hear Red Robin – brilliant!

We love good marketing. We love good ads; we notice good ads and good marketing techniques. We also scorn the bad ones.

Here’s what we love:

Mayhem – the entire series for Allstate, also the Allstate commercials when suddenly the black-guy-who-was-President-in-24’s voice comes out of an unlikely person.

Gecko/Geico – anytime you smile and you remember who the ad is for, that’s a good ad.

“What’s in Your Wallet?” Those hilarious Vikings make the point for Capitol One.

There are ads we like, but they don’t win our awards because while we like them, we can’t remember who they are for. If you can’t remember who an ad is for, the ad isn’t effective.

Campaigns I hate:

COX TV ads, all of them, just dumb.

Direct TV ads, just dumb.

Toilet Paper ads

As you can imagine, AdventureMan and I can have this conversation over a lot of long-distance drives and over a lot of meals.

So – what’s your favorite ad campaign? And why? Worst?

June 17, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Communication, Cultural, Entertainment, Marketing | 2 Comments

The Hummus Wars

WARNING! This article is long, and will take some time to read! Found it in the AOL/Huffpost:

I wish they would start a Muhammara war; I love the stuff!

 

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Saki Knafo

Sabra’s Quest To Push Hummus Mainstream Is About Much More Than Chickpeas

Posted: 06/10/2013 8:04 am EDT  |  Updated: 06/10/2013 5:01 pm EDT

Last winter, executives from the snack-food empire Frito-Lay invited Ronen Zohar, the Israeli head of America’s biggest hummus company, to watch the Super Bowl from a luxury suite at the Superdome in New Orleans.

For the snack-food industry, the Super Bowl amounts to something like Christmas and every kid’s birthday party wrapped into one, a day on which the average American consumes the caloric equivalent of 20 servings of Utz’s sour cream and onion dip. For Sabra, whose red-rimmed tubs of hummus are increasingly found inside American refrigerators, the stakes were particularly high.

“People are dipping in Super Bowl,” Zohar said. “They are looking for what to dip. Unfortunately they are dipping in the wrong product. But we try to change this. And we are doing okay.”

Around Sabra’s offices just outside New York City, employees are fond of saying that they hope to put their Middle Eastern chickpea dip “on every American table.” Though that mission is far from achieved, the company is off to an impressive start. In the last half-decade, overall sales of hummus have climbed sharply in the United States, with Sabra capturing about 60 percent of the market, according to the Chicago-based market research firm Information Resources, Inc. This spring, Sabra announced an $86 million dollar expansion of its Virginia factory, a move that the company says will create 140 jobs.

As the company’s leader during this stretch, Zohar has overseen a wide-ranging publicity effort aimed at simultaneously coaxing Americans to open their minds to a new taste of foreign origin while downplaying controversial aspects of the product’s provenance. In an age of significant spending by America’s pro-Israel lobby, even chickpeas have been swept into the debate over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, its attitude toward its Arab neighbors and its reliance on American support.

Pro-Palestinian activists have in recent years organized boycotts of Sabra’s Israeli parent company, Strauss, for providing care packages to the Golani Brigade, a branch of the Israeli army that has allegedly committed human-rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza. Groups in Lebanon have criticized Sabra for reaping the spoils of what they say is an intrinsically Lebanese dish. To quote a saying that has surfaced on the Internet, “First our land, then our hummus.”

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Ronen Zohar, the CEO of Sabra, is the leader of an effort to put hummus “on every American table.”

 

Zohar, a blunt-spoken man of 52 who rose through the industry by persuading more Israelis to consume American corn products, dismisses both groups of critics as irrelevant. The Palestinian boycott amounts to mere “noise,” he says. As for the argument that hummus belongs to Lebanon: “I am very happy if Lebanon is going to fight about the hummus and not about anything else.”

Like any businessman, Zohar likes to talk about his product’s promising future. But hummus has a long history. And in the Middle East, history has a way of intruding upon the present, shaping questions about the legitimacy of what Sabra has been adding to the American table.

“The history of this food is that of the Middle East,” writes Claudia Roden, an Egyptian-Jewish cookbook author who has been credited with introducing Middle Eastern food to the West. “Dishes carry the triumphs and glories, the defeats, the loves and sorrows of the past.”

HUMMUS WARS

No one knows for sure how far back the history of hummus goes, but traces of chickpea, the key ingredient, have turned up in Middle Eastern archeological sitesdating to 7,500 B.C. In his bestselling book, Guns, Germs, And Steel, the anthropologist Jared Diamond identifies the chickpea as one of several hardy, nutrition-packed food crops that grew in the Fertile Crescent and enabled its people to develop agriculture and, in turn, cities, armies, systems of taxation and governments.

As civilization spread outward, chickpeas did, too, becoming garbanzos in Spain and chana in India. In the Middle East, they were boiled, mashed and mixed with the sesame paste known as tahini, becoming “hummus bi tahini,” more commonly known as hummus.

In recent years, the growing popularity of hummus has made the dip an object of controversy. Sabra instigated one of the fights at a publicity event in New York in 2007, where it served several hundred pounds of hummus on a plate the size of an above-ground swimming pool, prompting its executives to boast that they had produced the largest dish of hummus in the history of the world.

A year later, an Israeli competitor, Osem, responded by serving 881 pounds of hummus at an outdoor market in Jerusalem. The event took place on Israeli Independence day, or as Palestinians call it, Al Nachbar, The Disaster. A Guinness representative was there to document the victory.

Lebanon entered the fray about a year after that, doubling Osem’s record at a cook-off in Beirut. The chefs, who had been convened by a pair of Lebanese business associations, used spices to decorate what was now the world’s largest hummus plate with a picture of the Lebanese flag. While they were at it, they also broke Israel’s record for the largest bowl of of tabouli, a bulgur and parsley dish. According to The Daily Star of Lebanon, the groups that organized the event had a more grandiose goal than merely notching a volume record: They hoped to promote the idea that the Lebanese had invented both tabouli and hummus.

In the months after that feat, Lebanon and Israel traded shots, with Lebanon delivering what has so far proved the victorious blow, serving 23,042 pounds of chickpea dip at a weekend-long gathering in 2010. On the eve of the event, Ramzi Nadim Shwaryi, a Lebanese TV chef and one of the festival’s coordinators, told the Lebanese press that he and his allies were in it for Lebanon’s honor.

“We will stand together against this industrial and cultural violation and defend our economy, civilization and Lebanese heritage,” he said.

At about the same time the hummus wars were playing out in Lebanon, a group of Palestinian-sympathizers in the United States tried to call attention to Israel’s military activities in the West Bank and Gaza by pressing for boycotts of two Israeli-owned hummus companies — Sabra, and one of its larger competitors, Tribe.

The boycotters identified themselves as supporters of a broader movement called Boycott, Divest and Sanctions. Launched by Palestinian activists in 2005 following failed peace negotiations, the organization aimed to apply economic pressure on the Israeli government to end its 46-year occupation of Palestinian territories.

YouTube video produced by protesters in Philadelphia who were part of the movement caught the attention of student activists at Princeton and DePaul universities in 2010. They tried to persuade their schools’ dining services to stop offering Sabra. Although they didn’t succeed, activists in the movement are still trying to garner support for their anti-Sabra efforts.

Still, Zohar does not seem particularly distressed by the potential implications for Sabra’s sales.

“The protesters make noise, but they make noise to themselves,” he said. “It doesn’t have any influence on our business.”

THE HUMMUS RELIGION

As the protests played out in the margins, Sabra aimed its product at the American mainstream. It deployed volunteers in trucks to hand out free samples of hummus in cities around the country, and expanded its product line to include more familiar dips, including guacamole and salsa.

It launched a national television ad campaign, exhorting people to “taste the Mediterranean,” and moved its staff in 2011 from an old industrial building across the street from a Queens cemetery to a sleek suburban office park, where the company heads plotted the conquest of the American marketplace in conference rooms named after touristy, exotic destinations like Madagascar and Morocco. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of the rooms were named after Lebanon or Israel.)

At the root of Sabra’s success was an influx of corporate money and resources. Strauss, an Israeli snack-food giant, bought half of Sabra in 2005, and Frito-Lay, the snack-food division of Pepsico, entered a joint-partnership agreement with Strauss in 2008. Zohar worked closely with the Frito-Lay people, who had scored a big victory for a foreign dip in the early ’90s, when Tostito’s salsa beat Heinz Ketchup to becomeAmerica’s best-selling condiment.

With Frito-Lay and Strauss’ investments, Sabra built its Virginia factory, where it developed flavors intended to appeal to the average American consumer: Spinach and Artichoke, Pesto, Buffalo Style. As Arabs and Israelis quarreled over the origins of hummus, Sabra was putting out a product that bore about as much resemblance to the authentic dish as a Domino’s BBQ Meat Lovers pie does to a genuine Italian pizza.

In Israel, meanwhile, yet another hummus debate was raging, and although it was the least overtly political of the controversies, it was no less capable of provoking feelings of hostility and anger. As the celebrated British-Israeli chef and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi and his Palestinian-born business partner and co-author Sami Tamimi wrote in the 2102 cookbook Jerusalem, “Jews in particular, and even more specifically Jewish men, never tire of arguments about the absolute, the only and only, the most fantastic hummusia.”

A hummusia is the Israeli equivalent of a New York pizza parlor, a cheap establishment that usually serves only hummus and a few other dishes. But the debates about hummusias are more intense than even the most impassioned pizza threads on Yelp.

“The hummusia fetish is so powerful that even the best of friends may easily turn against each other if they suddenly find themselves in opposite hummus camps,” Ottolenghi and Tamimi wrote. The arguments “can carry on for hours,” they noted, with the debaters delving into the minutia of whether hummus is better served warm or at room temperature, smooth or chunky, topped with fava beans or cumin and paprika, or nothing at all.

In a letter to The New York Times at the height of the hummus wars, Israeli food writer Janna Gur went even further, calling Israel’s fascination with hummus a “religion.” She noted that the most treasured restaurants are invariably owned by Arabs, a phenomenon she traced to the early Zionist settlers who arrived in the Holy Land determined to put the customs of the Diaspora behind them, while embracing a new identity in the Levant. They traded Yiddish for Hebrew, yeshivas for plowshares, and matzoh balls and tsimmis for falafel balls and hummus. “This love affair, that has been going on for decades, shows no signs of dying,” Gur wrote.

Last summer, while traveling in Israel, I visited as many of the hummusias as I could, hoping to come to my own conclusions about the craze. I was joined in this mission by my father, who moved from Israel to New York in the early 1970s and has griped about the quality of America’s hummus offerings ever since. Like many Israelis, he looks down not just on corporate hummus brands like Sabra and Tribe, but also on local shops that package their own hummus in take-out containers. As far as he is concerned, the religion of hummus forbids packaging of any kind.

In the Middle East, hummus is served fresh from the pot, on a big communal plate dripped with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and cumin. The plate has to be big enough and flat enough so that you can comfortably wipe up the hummus with a pita, an activity that my father refers to as “swiping.” He insists that hummus should have a subtle, earthy flavor, and disdains spicy hummus, lemony hummus, hummus with chipotles, hummus with artichoke, hummus with basil, sun-dried tomato or spinach, and most of all, the dip referred to as “black bean hummus.”

As he has pointed out many times, hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea; by definition, hummus made of black beans isn’t hummus.

In Israel, my father and I ate at Abu Hassan, a bare-tabled hummus den in the seaside town of Jaffa, where the staff starts serving early in the morning and shuts down the shop after the pot runs out, often in the early afternoon. We wandered the narrow streets of Jerusalem’s Old City, past the pilgrims crowding into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, until we reached a tiny hummus shrine adorned with black-and-white pictures of people sharing a meal at the shop sometime in the 1930s.

One day we drove to a city in Palestine’s West Bank known for its tahina factories and uprisings. By law, Israelis are forbidden from entering the Palestinian territories, except to travel to the Jewish settlements, but we felt that no hummus pilgrimage would be complete without a trip to Nablus.

At the checkpoint, an Arab cab driver pulled over and said he hoped, for our own sake, that we wouldn’t enter the city in our Israeli rental car. We thanked him and drove past the Israeli guards, through the rounded hills studded with olive trees. My father grew quiet. When he’d first traveled those hills, in 1967, he was in a tank, pushing forward toward the Jordan River as thousands of Palestinian refugees streamed down the sides of the road. The Six-Day War had broken out and the Israeli army had conquered the Palestinian villages.

After a while we reached the outskirts of Nablus, parked and made our way through the maze-like casbah, to a dim, windowless hummus restaurant with electrical wires hanging from the ceiling. A teenage boy strolled into the room with an unmarked bottle of olive oil, tipping it onto people’s plates. After a few minutes of “swiping,” my father announced that this was the best hummus he’d tasted on the trip — though he also remarked that the excitement of entering forbidden territory had enhanced the flavor. By that point I knew that my hummus palate wasn’t refined enough to discern the subtle differences between the various hummusia offerings, but I liked them all better than any hummus I’d ever had in America.

Toward the end of our stay, we traveled to the fertile hills of the Galilee region, where an Arab chef named Husam Abbas had been garnering praise for his gourmet take on Arab food, defying a number of Israeli assumptions about Palestinian culture.

Abbas, who has been described as a leading figure of Israel’s Slow Food movement, broke ground at his chain of high-end restaurants by showing Israelis that Arab cuisine isn’t just hummus and kebab. His specialties include a spicy watermelon salad with diced mustard stems and stuffed summer squash in a tomato bisque, and he uses produce grown in fields that his family has tended, by his account, for 1,700 years.

Abbas met us by the side of the road in his pickup truck and led us into his fields. A gruff man with a leathery face, he tramped down the leafy aisles with a cigarette lodged in his mouth, stooping to gather purple-tipped string beans, young cantaloupes that looked more like cucumbers, several kinds of summer squash, and beautifully misshapen heirloom tomatoes.

Later, in the dining room of one of his restaurants, he explained that when the growing season ends, he and his children go into the hills to gather wild herbs with names like “olesh” and “aqab” and “hobeza.” The herbs grow only locally and only in the winter.

“But because hummus is dry, it can be used throughout the year,” he said.

When I asked how he accounted for the dip’s popularity, he kept his answer short: “Low cost, high calorie.” He seemed a little annoyed at the need to deliver this dictum.

FLAVOR HOUSE

As Sabra strives to make its chickpea dip as popular as bagels, burritos and other foreign-born fixtures of the American diet, it is employing a flavor palette that would test the limits of acceptability in the Middle East.

One recent day, Mary Dawn Wright, Sabra’s executive chef, stood before an array of hummus containers at the company’s Virginia factory, discussing these techniques. She popped open a tub labeled Asian Fusion.

“Israelis would never ever think it’s considered to be hummus,” she admitted.

A glistening spoonful of some brightly colored carrot and ginger mixture distinguished the dip from anything you’d find in a hummusia. Sabra collaborates with outside “flavor houses,” whose scientists also help develop classic American products like Doritos, she explained.

Asian Fusion is just one of more than a dozen flavors that Sabra has invented in its effort to convert more Americans to hummus, and Wright was almost certainly correct in her frank assessment of what Israelis might think of them. Even Zohar didn’t bother to feign enthusiasm for Sabra’s Buffalo Style flavor. “I detest it,” he said.

But for Zohar, and presumably for the rest of Sabra’s executives, personal feelings about the flavors are as irrelevant as hummus’ place of origin. What matters are the cravings of the average American consumer, and Zohar seems to think that no American is beyond the company’s reach.

At the Superbowl, he noticed that many of the tailgaters were eating Louisiana fare — “all kinds of crabs and shrimps, whatever it is.”

He didn’t see any hummus containers amid the jambalaya and gumbo.

“Maybe in New Orleans they are eating hummus not as much as people in New York are eating hummus,” he said recently. “But give us two years. They are trying it, and when they try it they become a lover.”

June 11, 2013 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Marketing, Middle East | | Leave a comment