Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

So Many Names for One Little Legume


Garbanzos, ceces, chickpeas, chana dal…

They ares all the same delicious legume, whether in Spanish, Italian, English or Hindi.

Their origin is unknown, but based on analysis of wild varieties, chickpeas are believed to have come from Turkey, somewhere near Syria, where they have been cultivated over 7,500 years. Neither pea nor bean, the chickpea is classified as a ‘pulse’ because it grows in a tiny pod containing only two or three seeds. On the vine, they look very much like the lentils we saw in an Udaipur, India, street market rather than like pea or bean plants.

Chickpea Plant

Lentil plant in Udaipur market

This versatile bean is easy to cultivate and high in protein and other nutrients, and is, thus, very important in many vegetarian based diets.


Omnivores like myMEGusta love them in favorite dishes like classic Moroccan couscous.

Chickpeas are popular throughout India, the Middle East, and Mediterranean cuisines, and places where those cuisines have immigrated, for example, to Mexico.



In the South of France and in Monaco, people love Socca, a street food pancake made of a chickpea flour batter with a little black pepper (and, if the cook likes, some rosemary) baked to a crisp in olive oil. Of course, it can be made at home, and it can be garnished with a dollop of salad, chopped tomatoes, or other goodies to round it out to be a meal.

One favorite dish, with as many variations as there are Indian cooks, is Chana Masala, chickpeas stewed in a fragrant mélange of spices.

Chana Masala

On a visit to a favorite Barcelona restaurant, Etapes, we tasted bacalao (the reconstituted salted cod so loved in Iberia) served with garbanzos and garbanzo puree. Pure heaven.

Bacalao with Garbanzos and Garbanzo Puree

On a more pedestrian level, you can make homemade hummus in a jiffy for a last minute appetizer if you have a few standard ingredients on hand and a blender/food processor. Go to for the quick recipe. I have successfully substituted peanut butter for the tahini (different result, still very tasty).

Making Hummus

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One thought on “So Many Names for One Little Legume

  1. Interesting story. It took me a while and research in cookbooks to come up with the German name for Garbanzos. The German Name is Kicher Erbsen translated as: Giggling peas. Where the name comes from I have no clue, perhaps the Austrians and Germans made fun of the strange looking legume. It is used in recipes from countries straddling Eastern Europe.
    I am more intrigued about your ad showing a fried egg in an avocado shell. I always thought avocados should not be cooked. Now I know better.

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