Notes on Intuition, Hummus, and Keeping the Peace

Today, our guest post comes from Davy Knittle, from Gender in Law.   This post is part of the Nutrition and Intuition Blog Event during January 2012.  Stay tuned for future Blog Events.  If you would like to participate in our March Blog Event- SELF LOVE- contact us at

For the past six months, Emma has been living in San Clemente, a town several hours southwest of Quito, but I met her in the living room of my homestay family on Avenida 6 de Diciembre in Quito Norte. Emma lived with my homestay family two years ago.


One day, while we were walking through Parque El Ejido, she asked me, “how’s it going?” She was asking a specific set of unspoken questions. It turns out that, as a postgraduate researcher, I ended up with this particular host family because they’ve been banned from hosting undergraduates. Duke University’s study abroad program in Quito was helpful enough to give me the name of a family I could live with, but I didn’t understand the nature of the arrangement until I was several weeks into my stay there.


The host family I live with is made up of two parents and their two teenage daughters. What I didn’t know is that the parents are separated, but still living together, so the house is a flawless and consistent receptor for tension between all parties. Additionally, what I couldn’t have anticipated is that cooking, which falls to the mom, is something that is equally impacted by her moods and the state of the relationships within the house, and so some days we eat and some days I go out into the city and fend for myself.


I’ve always been used to cooking for myself. Even in childhood, mine was not a house with adults who liked to cook, although my mother was supportive of my own cooking endeavors and so I learned, from her same ‘70s and ‘80s vintage teachers – Jane Brody, Marian Burros, to cook with an antiquated if passionate acumen for whole foods.


Eating without cooking in Ecuador has been something to adjust to, as the practice of making meals, both for myself and for the people in my life has been central to how I communicate for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s the figuration of my homestay kitchen as a proto-war zone, or maybe it’s the clear ownership that my host mom exerts over the space, but, until Emma arrived, it never occurred to me to use my powers for culinary peace-keeping good.


Emma spent the day in Quito before she flew out that night to travel back to her home in the US.  That afternoon, before my host sisters returned from school, she showed up at the apartment with two bags of groceries. For the first few minutes I watched, and then I stood to help as Emma made hummus and sliced vegetables in my homestay kitchen. I’ve made hummus dozens of times, but something about being in Ecuador and feeling implicitly under the laws of Ecuadorian cooking rendered making any of my American standards out of the question, but Emma didn’t feel that way.


As it happened, Emma’s intuition was dead on. The girls, who are vegetarians, loved the hummus and loved that much more the presentation of a simple, effective meal. We made the hummus into sandwiches with vegetables and extra lime and ate them quietly. A couple of days later I followed my basic provider’s intuition and made one of my host sisters a cup of tea while she was doing her homework. It was a small thing, but I kept thinking of Emma, for how intuitive it felt.



Emma Coates-Finke Hummus



1 can chickpeas ¼ cup tahini juice of 1 to 1.5 limes 2 tbsp olive oil, or to taste 1 clove garlic sea salt pepper



1. Pour the chickpeas into a food processor or blender, reserving their liquid in a small bowl. 2. Add tahini, lime juice, olive oil and garlic (roughly chopped) and blend. 3. Add chickpea liquid a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is smooth. 4. Add sea salt and pepper and blend briefly.


written by Davy Knittle,