Falafel: How a Biblical Dish Can Become the Food of the Future


If you took a spin on Google on Tuesday, you likely noticed an adorable, anthropomorphic ball of falafel getting snug in a bit of pita with some friends (who are also falafel). This is because, like other cultural icons before it, falafel is now a Google Doodle.

Google tells Inverse that the falafel Doodle is running because June is “peak chickpea growing season!” That’s true, but it also begs the question for how long? Chickpeas are now a key part of falafel, but they are also highly susceptible to climate change. If crunchy, delicious falafel is going to make it to the future, chefs will likely have to turn to another foundational ingredient.

And that ingredient will be bugs.

Google turned artist Sophie Diao’s sketches of falafel friends into a gif for Tuesday’s celebration of falafel.

What Is Falafel

Falafel is different things to different people. Literally, it is a deep fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. The dried legumes are soaked, ground, then kneaded, before the mixture is spiced, rolled, and fried in hot oil. Different Middle Eastern countries have different preferred recipes, and the food’s origin is hotly debated. That debate is often fueled by regional tensions, but what is easily agreed upon is that falafel is delicious.

But Falafel is In Danger

In The Foods of Israel Today, author Joan Nathan describes falafel as a “biblical food” with ingredients “as old as you’re going to get.” But how well those ingredients will fare in the future is debatable. Chickpeas are a sensitive crop: Wet conditions raise the risk of fungal disease, and droughts can kill off a season’s bounty. It’s a legume that especially reacts negatively to temperature changes and exposures to heat stress — which is why scientists are racing to develop genetically modified chickpeas that can survive the effects of the climate crisis.

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SOURCE: Inverse – Sarah Sloat