Hummus was one of my first foods, given to me by my loving grandmother (or “Sittie” as my sister and I called her). My great-grandparents came to Canada from a small village in Lebanon in the early 1900’s bringing their cultural traditions with them. When my family arrived from “the old country”, they wanted to assimilate as much as possible (hence my very English last name, Michael). They were one of the first families from Lebanon to settle in Prince Edward Island and they simply wanted to belong. While I completely understand why assimilation was important to them at that time, I also feel saddened at this thought. I can’t imagine them having to leave behind so much of who they were, trying to fit into a foreign land.
I am eternally grateful that their cultural cuisine wasn’t lost to assimilation. My great-grandmother taught Sittie to cook traditional Lebanese recipes that had been passed down from generations before. The practice of learning your family culture and traditions through food is so important, no matter what cuisine is cooked in your kitchen.
My grandparents had two sons who likely weren’t encouraged to take part in meal preparations (as this was seen as a traditionally female task at that time). My grandparents were thrilled to welcome two granddaughters to their family and Sittie quickly went to work teaching us all of her recipes, kitchen tricks and how to grow the ingredients needed. Most of my fondest memories shared with Sittie involve time spent in her kitchen or garden.
My favourite foods growing up were either Lebanese (from my dad's side) or Ukrainian (from my mom's side) and neither were very popular on PEI at that time. Lunch times at school were tough; in a sea of sandwiches and fruit cups, I stuck out with my lunchbox full of garlicky hummus or perogies and sour cream. Although once I hit university, hummus seemed to explode on the scene and was being produced for the masses (same goes for perogies, actually!)
Traditionally, hummus is made by soaking, boiling and removing the skins from chickpeas before blending with tahini, lemon juice, salt and (lots of) garlic. This is a very time consuming process, but will definitely ensure your hummus is amazingly smooth. My Sittie would do this method most of the time, but when in a pinch she would take a shortcut; she bought canned chickpeas blended with tahini at a Lebanese grocery store. She would combine this smooth paste with lemon juice, garlic and salt. Sittie’s hummus was always garnished with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika.
Whichever way you prefer, try making your own at home!