I first tried houmous in the late 90s. Hey, it was crazy times, everyone was doing it. I also wore tie-dye with conviction and thought about getting a fringe but didn’t. It was the bit of time just before Toploader came along and changed everything. The bit before the constant playing of Dancing In The Moonlight made everyone love everyone, which was the bit before the constant playing of Dancing In The Moonlight made everyone want to kill everyone. You had to cut your emotions from other stuff before Toploader. Like Esther Rantzen, Benetton ads, or real life. It was only natural that I should eventually come to try houmous amid all that madness and change. Destiny. Serendipity. Houmous.
I won’t lie; the event took place in a garden in Ilford, the Morocco of Essex back then. I found myself there visiting a university friend of Kosher Organic Shopper heritage who wanted to introduce me to beetroot juice. Despite the retching and the indignant shrieking of “WHY?” I stuck around long enough to try the beige goo in the pot. The houmous. (Or hummus if you don’t like the letter O. It’s not for everyone.)
And that was that. Houmous was in my life.
I think of houmous now, writing this in lieu of anything other to say, because I woke up this morning with some on a plate by my head. I got in late last night, famished, and went to the fridge. A friend had texted earlier in the evening to say he had made some. It’s a thing now apparently; ‘making houmous’. Like blogging, or guyliner. Having some houmous in his honour seemed like a nice friendly idea. Plus I hadn’t been shopping and it was either that or old mushrooms. So I ate some houmous and fell asleep without cleaning my teeth, which is okay every now and then but not often unless you want to lose your teeth and your diet be restricted to swallowable pastes not dependent on molars, like…houmous.
I awoke, my teeth intact. There was the houmous, unfinished. Beneath it the swollen corpse of a ryvita. Beside that its wailing orphaned crumbs. I stared at the houmous and for the first time actually thought about houmous. My brain wasn’t capable of much more. I’m not a morning person.
I thought of my first time, back on an Ilford lawn of 1999. So soft, so smooth, so beige. I thought of my beetroot juice drinking friend who now lives in Israel, who I miss. Houmous is him. I thought of my other friend who spent his evening making chickpea paste, who tries to make people happy through food. Houmous is him now too. Houmous is lots of other people I’ve known and eaten with, out there. Houmous is Israelis and Palestinians eating the same thing as each other every day and not thinking of that instead of prolonging their hate. Houmous is the bank holiday picnic; everyone out in the park in this year’s sun. Houmous is my dog staring hopefully at me, waiting for some to drip-splat on the floor for licking. Houmous is finishing my play, saying goodbye to being a hermit for a while and going to meet friends I haven’t seen for ages; it’s knowing the houmous is there and coming home to the dependable light of the fridge. Houmous is houmous.
We store our lives in such ordinary things. They become emblems for our time. Every time we do something again it’s a salute to the time before, and all the times, all the people, all link up and meet in your memory.
In short, Houmous is awesome. (And beetroot juice is evil. But that’s another column.)