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Google is taking a break Tuesday from its recent Women’s World Cup soccer Doodles to honor another ball many get a kick out of. The falafel! The animated Doodle serves up the tasty deep-fried balls that, as Google puts it, are “the best thing that ever happened to chickpeas.”
As the Doodle demonstrates, falafel is made with herbs, spices and onions and commonly served in a pita. It’s been enjoyed for several centuries and by many cultures around the world, although its origin is a bit hazy and controversial. It’s widely thought to have been invented about 1,000 years ago by Egyptians, who use ground fava beans for what they call “ta’amiya.”
As the dish spread north to the Levant section of the Eastern Mediterranean, fava beans were replaced by chickpeas as the main ingredient, and it acquired the Levantine Arabic name falafel. Still other theories hold that it was invented by the Arabs or Turks.
Where ever it came from, it’s been on the move ever since. It spread to North America in the 1970s, primarily in Arabic, Coptic and Jewish neighborhoods but has since become a common street food. It’s also become popular in Germany in recent decades, where it’s been adapted by the Arab subculture to include pickles, vegetables and sweet mango sauce.
This isn’t the first time Google has put food in the Doodle spotlight. In 2017, Google cooked up a slideshow to honor the rice noodle, and last year, Google celebrated the Fourth of July with an interactive map highlighting food from across the country.
Chickpea-based falafel, which can be prepared in many ways, is high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber, making it popular among vegetarians and vegans looking for an alternative to meat-based foods. Chickpeas are also low in fat and contain no cholesterol.