Like all the most dangerous habits, mine started with a youthful experiment: a funky Tunisian concoction called hrous, which comes from the edge of the Sahara. 

I was led to it by that peerless gastronomic explorer Paula Wolfert and her Mediterranean Cooking, a take-you-there book that was published in 1977, a year when toothpicks were still commonly used to impale pineapple and cheese.

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