In April, 2020, we received an amazing email from The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards: “Your book On the Hummus Route has won Best Book of the Year in All Categories, and Best Book for Peace…” It was like a spark of hope in these times of the pandemic, acknowledging the path our book paves forward for a better humanity.
Dan Alexander, the book’s Chief Editor and designer, was immediately reminded of Alber Camus’ The Plague, feeling that these accolades from such a distinguished book competition were perhaps a first sign of a better world, like the pigeon bringing the olive branch back to Noah’s arc.
On the Hummus Route traces after one of the most contentious legumes in the Middle East – the Chickpea, or Hummus in Arabic and Hebrew. Dan Alexander wanted to turn this golden grain into a peephole of who we are as people, and created a “coalition” of people from diverse backgrounds who partnered together on this utopic journey across nine Middle Easter hummus hubs. The book became a singular opportunity to sense within the folds of one book the tension of Gaza next to Jerusalem, Cairo next to Damascus, and more. Chefs, restaurateurs, sociologists, philosophers, photographers, artists – over thirty collaborators from many social backdrops shared their dreams and thoughts with us, creating together the most in-depth tome on hummus.
As Chief Editor of the book and its designer, a critical aspect was to harmonize multiple content types. A set of carefully planned graphic grids was developed by Dan Alexander & Co., to streamline a coherent flow between the book’s recipes, essays, anecdotes, and imagery, while staying true to the authenticity of each of the hummus capitals.
For us, design is a language that communicates key messages about the community in which we live. It carries an accurate definition in substance, and can be used as a tool for social change. On the Hummus Book uses the power of design to echo the messages of optimism and positivity, which mobilize change and offer the horizon of a new social space, because, in the end of it all, it’s all about humanity.
The book relates to hummus as a horizon of possibilities. People can find their identity within the book, because identity is never just about the past, it is always so much more about the future. Aspiration is the appetite that pushes people to act and become their dream, their future-selves.
A designer’s job is to give these dreams shape and form, while tracing the path towards the place where the identity lives and the community awaits. Then, just like the chickpea, you can roll across the map towards this place, and be able to sustain a synthesis of influences while making your mark everywhere.
Uncertainty feeds Dan Alexander’s work, but the certainty of humanism grounds it.
[The full article, which was not published, can be found here in our drive, here]