“You are what you eat.” We’ve all heard this quote which has become a cliché and that people interpret according to their own agenda. Apparently, the first use of this phrase was by a French author, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who wrote in 1826, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” He believed that a person’s diet determined their mental, physical, and emotional health as well as their character.
The expression has undergone changes through the years, but many would agree that a healthy diet leads to a healthy lifestyle. It can be taken to extremes, however, as fad diets may become a religion. When I began the traveling, hippy lifestyle in the early 1970’s, the macrobiotic diet was the popular way to eat and mandated a balance of yin and yang foods. I wanted to conform but never managed to understand the rigid rules beyond eating mostly brown rice.
In the meantime, it seems that new diet fads are popping up constantly. I was recently asked, “Which diet do you follow?”
“Mediterranean,” I answered.
“How long have you been on it?”
“Since I moved to Israel, a Mediterranean country, forty-six years ago. That’s how we eat here.”
I’m thankful to live in Israel for many reasons and among them is the prevalence of fresh fruits and vegetables, good olive oil, nuts, and beans, with less red meat and more fish. In recent years, studies have shown the health benefits of this lifestyle.
In my recently published novel, To Belong, food plays an important role because the main character, a young Israeli woman named Tamar, is embarking on a vegan diet, not an unusual step in Israel which has been called “the vegan capital of the world.” I included many descriptions of their meals and menus including holiday fare, Yemenite cuisine (from Tamar’s mother), and popular Middle-Eastern dishes.
I’d like to share with you my recipe for home-made hummus. Since I started making it myself, I never eat the prepared kind. Try it and I think you’ll agree. For us, hummus is also our go-to food to take to picnics in the desert because it pairs so well with pita made over the fire. With more awareness of the importance of eating beans, hummus is a great health food, if you don’t eat too much! I cook a kilo of garbanzo beans in my pressure cooker, divide it into 5 baggies and freeze. After defrosting the beans, it only takes me a short time to make delicious hummus.
1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (I use dried, pre-cooked ones, not canned)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed or preserved)
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
A little cumin powder
Blend all together in blender. If too thick add some water, up to 1/4 cup.
Spread on plate, pour some olive oil on top, sprinkle with za'atar (if you have) and some cooked garbanzo beans.