Humbled by hummus


Stopping for lunch in Tel Aviv.

Stopping for lunch in Tel Aviv.

TEL AVIV — Even the most intriguing food technology has a tough time outshining the hummus I ate in Jaffa, an Israeli town just to the south of lush Tel Aviv. Cozied up along the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, this hummus was served up at Abu Hassan; slightly cool, immediately addictive, and creamy, it was presented with a dusting of paprika and a dab of olive oil. I went back for seconds, blushing. Then thirds.

Even as I visited three promising food laboratories developing cell-cultured meats in Israel, the purveyors of these high-tech spaces paid significant homage to the naturally-grown food that already exist around them.

"These are the freshest dates you'll ever taste," says Ido Savir, sliding a small box of twelve across a table toward me. They were slightly frozen, gushing with juices, and overwhelmingly sweet.

I lean forward with a napkin to keep from dripping. This is the kind of food I gorged on during my two-week stay in the country, where it takes a careful eye to find menu items that aren't healthy options. Everything is loaded with tomato and onion and cucumber and carrots. 

In that same vein, the cell-cultured meat companies here are singular in their own right. For most of them, the approach is deeply academic. My travels took me from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Rehovot—proving in a very visceral way the power of a a national effort to push a science forward, and in a way that compliments an already-sustainable food system.