In Massachusetts, I used to buy homemade hummus from a small grocery run by an Armenian family. The hummus was made fresh every day by the mother, and I was hooked the first time I tried it. One day's batch never tasted exactly the same as another--this one a bit more lemony, that one much more garlicky--which is one way I knew it was homemade.
The container of hummus was labeled with a list of just four ingredients: chick peas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice. Some years later, when I began making more of my own foods from scratch, I realized that it really is as easy as that. Just blend together those ingredients (I add some salt and pepper), and you get yummy homemade hummus. I even used to make the tahini myself.
Lately a new brand of hummus and other Mediterranean-inspired dips called Sabra has been showing up in supermarkets. You may have noticed it, too. And today, after seeing an ad for the hummus, I looked up the ingredients for it. As I suspected, it's not a pure product; it's got "chick peas, water, tahini (sesame), soy bean and/or canola oil, garlic, salt, citric acid, modified corn starch, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate to preserve freshness." I'm betting that the soy bean or canola oil is used to save on tahini, which is relatively expensive. Everything that follows the salt is required to prolong the product's shelf life.
Equally disappointing, though not at all surprising, is the marketing blurb on the "Nutrition Information" page of the Sabra website. It begins, "Recently, the Mediterranean Diet and its healthy benefits have been causing quite a stir among the medical community and dieters looking for a satisfying, tasty diet. Based on the heart-healthy diets of the Mediterranean people, the Mediterranean Diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and whole grains. And of course, Sabra hummus!" But as I understand it, potassium sorbate and modified corn starch aren't traditional ingredients for real hummus.
Sabra, by the way, was founded in Queens, NY, in 1986, and probably produced foods that were more wholesome then. But in 2005 Strauss Group, "the second largest food and beverages company in Israel," purchased it, and three years later the group entered into a joint-venture partnership with PepsiCo, the largest U.S.-based food and beverage company, to form what is now "Sabra Dipping Company, LLC."