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MIT hummus recipe contest serves political, palatable purpose

Peanut butter, jalapenos and soy sauce are not typically appealing ingredient combinations, but Massachusetts Institute of Technology students were up for anything as they experimented with creating their own hummus recipes Tuesday night.

Just 24 hours later, in the second-annual Hummus Taste-Off, sponsored by multiple MIT Jewish groups, more than 100 MIT attendees elected their favorite chickpea creations ranging from flavors like picante soy sauce to jalapeno.

Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods, Inc. Marketing Director Aimee Tsakirellis said hummus flavors have come a long way.

’20 years ago, only the original flavor of hummus was popular,’ Tsakirellis said.

Now, people prefer assorted flavors, she said.

Students were asked to create a ‘funky flavor of hummus,’ MIT Administrative/Development Associate Hillel Jacob Greene said. The four teams received peanut butter, curry and jalapeno peppers to use in their recipes.

MIT freshman Alex Speltz’s team won first place by one vote for its picante soy sauce hummus. None of the team members had any prior experience making hummus, so they began with ten different ideas, Speltz said. They found the final combination of jalapenos and soy sauce after a fluke suggestion from a teammate.

‘It was made by accident,’ Speltz said. ‘She said, ‘This might sound weird, but let’s just try it.”

MIT sophomore Wissam Jarjoui was a part of the ‘Yes We Can . . . Make Hummus’ team. Jarjoui said he thought his team had good odds to win. After the team tied for third place, Jarjoui attributed the loss to aesthetics, because the hummus was yellow and had a thinner consistency.

‘Lots of people said they would have chosen ours if the color was better,’ Jarjoui said.

The tight race was disheartening, he said.

‘If only I had five more friends,’ Jarjoui said.

MIT Hillel Program Director Eliad Shmuel was in charge of the taste-off. As he stood in his ‘Hummus Junkie’ T-shirt, he said last year’s competition was supposed to be a ‘one-time thing,’ but was so popular, it has been made into an annual occasion.

Hummus may serve an important purpose aside from being tasty, he said.

‘It shows something positive in light of recent negative events in Israel,’ Shmuel said.

MIT Israel Program Coordinator David Dolev said he enjoys hummus because it’s so versatile.

‘You can just take a little bit or you can make a whole meal out of it,’ Dolev said.

Dolev said that the large turnout showed how important hummus has become.

‘We must be answering some need,’ Dolev said.

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