In this week's special Fourth of July issue, Saki Knafo looks at the Americanization of one of the Middle East's most traditional dishes: hummus.
We meet Ronen Zohar, an Israeli, who heads America's biggest hummus company, Sabra. Alongside competitors like Tribe, Sabra is at the forefront of a campaign to put hummus "on every American table," in the company of snacks like potato chips, salsa and Doritos.
When Zohar joined executives of Frito-Lay last winter in a suite at the Superdome to watch the Super Bowl -- the holy grail of American snacking holidays -- he observed that Americans "are looking for what to dip." But unfortunately, "they are dipping in the wrong product."
Thanks in part to Sabra's push, more and more Americans are making hummus their dip of choice. Hummus sales -- and Sabra's fortunes -- are steadily rising.
Drawing on history and humor, Saki also takes us inside the "hummus wars." For many people in the Middle East, hummus isn't just a delicious chickpea dip -- it's part of their cultural identity. In recent years, pro-Palestinian activists have boycotted Sabra's Israeli parent company, Strauss. Lebanese groups have criticized Sabra for co-opting their country's native dish.
Yet Sabra presses on, tinkering with new recipes designed to appeal to the American palate, with hummus flavors like Asian Fusion and Buffalo Style ("I detest it," Zohar said of the latter). The company's optimism is rooted in the fact that Americans have embraced plenty of foreign-born snacks before, from bagels and burritos to guacamole and salsa.
Elsewhere in the issue, we feature a photo essay of Americans as seen from the backs of their t-shirts. The images are sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous, and taken together, definitely thought-provoking. We see Americans of all ages and backgrounds, in public places across the country, expressing themselves through what they wear, and sharing their messages -- from "Vote Incumbents Out" to "Do the Hustle Thing" -- with anyone who can read a t-shirt. And since the Fourth of July is perhaps second only to the Super Bowl when it comes to eating, we've gone all-in on features about America's culinary traditions, from clambakes and cocktails to ice cream and a survey of American foods that, alas, aren't really American.
This story appears in the special July 4 issue of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, June 28.