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Beans are good, but chickpeas are divine

In praise of the humble, delicious chickpea.

Food dish Staff photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has everyone eating beans. Given the rushes on grocery shelves and quarantines in much of the country and parts of the world, this makes sense. Beans keep for a long time, they are affordable sources of protein, they are versatile. Beans are great. Red beans, black beans, white beans, fancy beans, basic beans. I’m here for beans.

But chickpeas? Yeah, now we’re talking.

Chickpeas are another legume, one I didn’t experience in their full glory until — if you can believe it — my 30s. I started eating mass-produced hummus as a snack and lunch a few years ago when hummus got popular in suburban supermarkets. When Costco started selling big ol’ tubs of hummus? That’s when I got into hummus.

Shortly after discovering the wonders of hummus — later than everyone else, mind you — I came to understand that hummus is relatively easy to make. So I decided to make some . I searched my local grocery store to find some chickpeas, and couldn’t find them anywhere in the bean aisle. It turns out, unbeknownst to me, chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans, which is a complete misnomer because chickpeas are not beans. Garbanzo beans are not beans! How about that?

So I bought some garbanzo beans and referred them only as chickpeas from there on out, made some hummus, ate the hummus, bought some more chickpeas née garbanzos and made some more hummus.

You know what else chickpeas are for, which I did not know until painfully recently? Falafel! Grind up chickpeas into flour, make a dough, fry it: falafel. (Also: chana masala! Would you believe that a childhood full of frozen dinners and fast food sheltered me from things like “spices” and “Eastern Hemisphere cuisine”? It’s true. I’m privileged to have had good parents and always enough to eat, but, wow, I did not develop a palate in any way.)

Here’s the true glory of the chickpea in all its considerable might: you can get some chickpeas, grind them up and make falafel with them as the main ingredient ... and then dip that falafel into hummus, for which chickpeas are also the main ingredient. It defies reason. Chickpeas on chickpeas!

Is there any bean in which you can make a delicious treat using ground beans as a flour base and then dip said treat in a spread for which the main ingredient is the same damn bean? I suppose bean chips can be dipped into bean dip. But it’s no falafel and hummus.

This late appreciation and love of chickpeas makes me wonder what other fine legumes I’m behind on. I had never heard of Rancho Gordo beans before coronavirus, despite living an hour from the flagship store. Should I be into Rancho Gordo beans? I think I should.

I’m familiar with the tamarind thanks to Jarritos, a delicious Mexican soda. (Lime > Tamarind > Jamaica > all other flavors.) But I was not aware tamarind was an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce and I’ve never knowingly had a tamarind chutney. Frankly, I’m ill-equipped to discuss any chutneys. Is it time to explore tamarind and other chutneys? Absolutely.

Lentils? Hell yes. Let’s get into lentils.

Chickpeas, though, are the 2014-2018 Warriors of the legume game, I’m sure. Maximal power and versatility in a tiny little ball. Let’s hear it for chickpeas.