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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Java Hemmat

Hummus Chick

Javaneh Hemmat was born to Persian parents living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1978, when the UAE was only six years old. Java’s earliest memories recall a barren desert with just the smooth rise and dip of sand dunes. But she also remembers diversity among those who lived in the country from places throughout Europe and Africa, and her parents traveled frequently exposing her to new places. When it came time for college, an interest in American pop culture led her to Middle Tennessee State University in 1998.

She didn’t find the foods of her upbringing – eggplant stews, saffron pudding and hummus. She did her best to avoid fast and cafeteria food, and learned to cook, drawing from a Persian cookbook from her mother. She developed the seed of a food business reflecting her native country’s culture, and it drew her back to her roots. In 2012, after a layoff from her corporate job and with degrees in both business management and chemistry, she started Hummus Chick with just thirty-five dollars in her pocket. The company continues to grow out of Mesa Komal, the commissary kitchen at Casa Azafran community center on Nolensville Pike.

Date of interview:

Jennifer Justus

Emily B. Hall

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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