In the world of food, perhaps no dish has origins so ancient, ambiguous, or hotly contested as does falafel.
Called ta’amia in Egypt, meaning “nourishment” or “little tasty thing,” falafel is believed to have originated with Christian Copts in the 4th century who prepared the fritters during Lent using fava beans, one of the world’s oldest domesticated crops.
The little tasty things eventually traveled to the Levant, where fava beans were replaced with chickpeas. Today, the Oxford Companion to Food describes falafel as “the Israeli hot dog,” and it has been claimed as the national dish of many Middle Eastern countries. However, these claims about a relatively small food item can cause contention.
In A History of the Mideast in the Humble Chickpea, reporter Jodi Kantor writes, “…the world’s rawest conflicts can include disagreements over common foodstuffs. Irish Catholics and Protestants have lightly