Why Instagram Is So Divided Over Ina Garten's Salad

Ina Garten is nothing if not a polarizing figure. The chef and Food Network OG has been issuing cheery commands in the kitchen for years now, and her delicious recipes generally come with a classic cocktail, a toothy grin, and an empowering message or two ("How easy is that?"). It's enough to make you lose your lunch.

We're kidding, of course. Some people probably can't but adore Garten and her library of cookbooks (she has published 13 according to her recent Instagram announcement about the one due out this fall), and not just because of her endlessly sunny disposition or the flawless dishes she creates. Elle explains that the chef is "everybody's fantasy best friend," with Garten's approachability and likability locked in an eternal battle for the number one spot on her list of best qualities.

But that's not to say that every now and again, a little shade doesn't fall in the Garten. "I stay away from politics," she wisely told Elle when pushed for comment about the #MeToo movement. A savvy stance, and one that usually keeps Garten out of hot water. But as we all know, those in the public eye are only ever one social media post about summer salad away from inspiring some Ina-cendiary Instagram comments ... as Garten herself found out in July.

Hummus-ing with history

"TOO HOT TO COOK WEEK!!" they called it, and indeed the heat index was at an all-time high in the comments section of Ina Garten's social media. While her Instagram post about "Israeli Vegetable Salad" was met with a metric ton of positive affirmations, there were plenty of commenters ready to yuck Garten's yum over her choice of words and the perceived lack of sensitivity around calling her veggies-on-hummus spread "Israeli."

"Israeli??" one follower wrote, "Did you mean Palestinian or Mediterranean??" Another commented, "Looks good but hummus is Arabic." Many more began or contributed to comment threads about cultural appropriation in the kitchen. The dish itself — assorted raw veggies over a smear of homemade hummus, according to Barefoot Contessa — is both tasty and triggering. Commenters were eager to give culinary credit where they think it's due.

As the BBC has reported, hummus is a historically divisive food. Middle Eastern nations from Lebanon to Syria claim the chickpea concoction as their own, and the prospect of decisively tracing the origin to a single place sounds elusive at best. Then again, is Garten really calling her dish Israeli? Or is she saying the crunchy vegetable salad is the Israeli part and not making a statement about where or how hummus was invented? One thing is for sure: If Garten has a team of political wonks fact-check her every recipe, they may have good reason to go over the upcoming cookbook with a fine-tooth comb.