Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Give chickpeas a chance

Jews and Arabs. They go together like Jews and Arabs. You know the story: one launches rockets at the other, one invades the other, one is accused of violating international law and the Geneva conventions by the other. Oh the hijinks they get into. But if there is one common theme to this seemingly endless series of conflicts,k it is war. War... over hummus. That's what this conflict is all about, right?
Lebanon set a record for the largest plate of hummus Saturday in the continuing gastronomic war with Israel over the regional delicacy.

The war has played out publicly for years with two sides outdoing each other for the title of world's best or world's largest hummus dish.

On Saturday, about 300 Lebanese chefs in the village of al-Fanar -- about 8 km (5 miles) east of Beirut -- lay claim to the latter title with a dish that weighed 11.5 tons. That's 23,042 pounds or 10,452 kg.

The achievement more than doubled the previous record -- set in January in the Arab-Israeli village of Abu Gosh.
Israel has responded by sending tanks over the border and building a series of walls around Lebanese chickpea farms. Hamas has responded by slingshotting bowls of tahini randomly into Jerusalem.

This is just the latest battle in the war over hummus, with each side trading Guinness World Record attempts as the public front over a various serious battle over who can claim the rights to having originated hummus. Lebanon wishes to have the European Commission grant them a "protected designation of origin" order on hummus, so that only Lebanon will be able to label mashed chickpea dishes "hummus". Much like the Greeks with feta cheese, where every other country that produces it must refer to it as "Greek style cheese". Israel claims that this is tantamount to a country trying to claim the invention of bread or wine. In any event the special designation could mean millions or billions in export rights and I'm sure this fight won't escalate into increased hostilities and America vetoing things in the Security Council.

But despite this battle and the charged record attempts it engenders, some are hopeful.
"If you enter any good hummus restaurant in this region, you will see Jews and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis sitting at the same table, eating the same food. I think in the end this rivalry will show that we in the Middle East have far more in common than the things that divide us."
Well, when food opinions supercede religion, territory, and who scuffed whose sandal first two thousand years ago, the rest of the world will breathe a sigh of relief. Until then, we're just hoping that a turf battle between Famous Original Ahmed's Hummus and Original Famous Ahmed's Hummus over stolen recipes doesn't touch off an international incident. All I can say is thank God Iran isn't trying to build the World's Biggest Falafel. That could really set something off.

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