Where hummus stops

Hummus is the subject of what has become a prodigious collection of posts at this station. (Just put “hummus” in the Search box above (left) and you’ll see.)

Well, it flows like a mighty river across the Levant. But it stops at the Sea of Marmara. It does not cross the Bosphorus nor pass the Dardanelles. straits

And so hummus is not found on Greek tables — even though chicpeas are a staple of Greek cuisine. Greeks just prefer their chicpeas in soups and stews instead of bean dip.

I was led to this Greek learning upon hearing  a podcast of the poet Christopher Bakken speaking at Davidson College on March 13, 2013.

Bakken has written a book entitled Honey, Olives, Octopus – Adventures at the Greek Table  which he read from in his lecture at Davidson. He spoke of the island of Seriphos, where “the tastiest preparation of chicpeas in all of Greece was developed” and he described the dish, a version of revithia.

I was hooked. I searched the Internet high and low (not then having the term revithia, although that alone would not have sufficed), but found no recipe. So I sent a message to Bakken himself, citing his lecture and asking for help.rivithia

Bakken was great. He responded promptly, but told me that he was not aware of a published recipe other than the description of the dish and its preparation that comprise Chapter 6 of his book (“Beans: Chasing Chicpeas at Plati Yialós”). Then, he said words to the effect of “I suppose I could scan a copy of that chapter from my book and send it to you.”

Was this an generous offer from a scholar and poet who has better things to do, or was he playing me like a trout? No matter. I thanked him sincerely and snapped up a copy of the book for myself.

Now – about that chicpea dish. Well, I will tell you this: you can’t go wrong combining chicpeas and lots of onions (lots) and olive oil and water and rosemary (garlic optional) and baking them for a long time (400º). Salt, as they say, and pepper to taste. Beyond that, buy the book.

One more thing worth knowing: The early Greeks had communal ovens for baking bread and they had clay for making pots. When the bread was done, the ovens were still hot, so they developed the practice of putting great casseroles of vegetables, oil, water and herbs in to bake in the heat left after the bread came out. Knowing that makes it taste better, I think.

Thanks to Christopher Bakken.

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