Lebanon is accusing Israel of usurping its most precious culinary specialties. It intends to create a geographical label to identify ‘authentic’ Lebanese cuisine. To further stress its point, Lebanon also intends to beat the largest hummus dish world record, currently held by Israel…
Lebanon and Israel have officially been at war for 60 years. Over the past few months the neighbouring countries seem to have found a new subject to bicker about: food.
It all started on a local TV show last October when Lebanese industrialists complained about the commercialisation of star Lebanese dishes such as hummus under the label “Israeli cuisine” in western stores. The president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association, Fadi Abboud, filed a registration request for the creation of an EU label for authentic ‘Lebanese’ dishes.
Authentic hummus is a chickpea purée with sesame cream (tahini) seasoned with garlic, lemon and olive oil. It is one of the best-known and -loved Lebanese “mezze” (appetizers). Its popularity has spread to Israel, where the best hummus makers of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem reach movie-star fame.
Top hummus makers in Israel. Published on YouTube by elahnz , on April 8, 2009.
But hummus is also big business. Lebanese industrialists are mainly concerned about the loss of market share in the face of foreign produce, which they estimate at around one billion dollars a year.
In an increasingly competitive market, Israelis are coming up with ever-more-creative solutions. Paprika, onions, olives, basil and sun-dried tomatoes are among the new flavours which are added to the original recipe, much to the horror of hummus purists.
In 2007 Israeli scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem even published a study proving that hummus boosts physical growth, diminishes aggressiveness and is a good anti-depressant.
Israelis made the world’s largest plate of hummus in 2008: a 400 kg plate, four metres wide, at the Mahaneh Yehudat market in Jerusalem. Lebanese hummus makers intend to break that record on October 24 in Beirut’s Saifi marketplace. Originally published on The Hummus Blog.
"Israelis have usurped several Lebanese and oriental products"
Israelis have usurped several Lebanese and oriental products. About ten years ago, they sold 80 tonnes of water-logged cucumbers produced in Gaza greenhouses to the city of Detroit, and called them “Kahale cucumbers”. Kahale is the name of a village in Mount Lebanon which produces a special, non-irrigated sort of cucumber on mountain soil. Extreme vigilance and judicial procedures at an international level are needed to halt these illegal proceedings, which are nothing less than the plunder of a country’s cultural heritage."
“Hummus doesn’t belong to the country that invented it, but the people who love it”
Wanting to claim ‘ownership’ of hummus is ridiculous. According to archaeologists, the actual mix of chickpeas and sesame cream was created by Crusaders in the Middle Ages. Hummus doesn’t belong to the country that invented it but the people who love it, who make it, who are passionate about it. Hummus is more than a dish, it’s a culture. When you go to a hummusia (hummus restaurant) you share a table with strangers. You talk to them, bond with them. Whether you are Jewish, Christian or Arab, it doesn’t matter: differences disappear."
Some people add the famous Sephardic recipe of 'chaminabos' (brown egg) to hummus. Published by ilan on Flickr, on May 25, 2009.
“Israelis must find another name to sell hummus”
Fadi Abboud, is president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association.
You can’t stop other countries from producing hummus, that’s unrealistic. But we’d like to protect the product’s label: the word means chickpea in Arabic, but 'hummus' as a commercial name to designate a specialty dish of crushed chickpeas and sesame cream was first used in Lebanon in the 1950s. If Israelis produce and commercialise the same product, they have to find another name for it. In the UK, for example, commercial hummus is sold under the name ‘Greek dip’, even though you can’t find hummus in Greece! "
Israeli hummus with paprika and pine nuts. Published on Flickr by bitzi, on July 18, 2006.