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Hummus wars: Israelis respond to Lebanon's world record dish

Lebanon took the title of world's largest hummus dish from Israel. But Israelis now say taste matters more than size.

By Josh MitnickCorrespondent / May 11, 2010

Chefs pour hummus into a gigantic dish in Ain Saadeh, northeast of Beirut, Saturday, during an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for producing the biggest plate of hummus in the world.

Cynthia Karam/Reuters

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Tel Aviv, Israel

Israelis reacted with a measure of resignation and humor to the news that Lebanon one-upped them for the world record for the largest plate of hummus.

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In the latest installment of the hummus war between the countries, a team of Lebanese chefs prepared a serving of hummus that weighed in at 23,130 kilograms (59,992 pounds), setting a Guinness World Record (see video below). That broke the mark set in January by a restaurant in the Israeli Arab town of Abu Gosh, outdoing an older Lebanese record.

"It's preferable that the war will be over hummus than on the battlefield, no?'' jokes Maor Barazi, as he wiped up a plate of the chickpea dip with pita bread at Meshawshe, a Tel Aviv hummus restaurant.

While Israelis claim hummus and falafel as national dishes, they also acknowledge that the best practitioners of the craft can be found in Arab cities and neighborhoods. According to a recent reader survey sponsored by Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, the top two most popular hummus restaurants in Israel were located in Jaffa and Acre.

"We can't beat them on this,'' says Yedid Sapir, an Israeli Jew, who was sitting across from Barazi at the Tel Aviv restaurant. "You can't deny that we didn't invent hummus."

Taste, not size, matters

The two agreed that they would have liked to sample the record-breaking dish, asserting that ultimately taste, not size, is what matters to them

Shuki Galili, who writes the Humus101 blog says that the rivalry is more about public relations for hummus exporters than a blow to Israeli's national pride. The January record-setting event was sponsored by Israeli hummus manufacturer Tsabar Salads.

Some Arabs complain that Israel has tried to steal their national cuisine. Several years ago the Lebanese trade industry reportedly mulled a hummus lawsuit against Israel for claiming ownership.

Still, it was rumored in Israel, that during Israel's indirect peace talks with Syria two years ago, President Bashir Assad instructed intermediaries to deliver a plate of Damascus hummus to then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

 While dismissing the national rivalry, the Israeli hummus blogger said that at least the press coverage is winning the dish more international public relations.

 "Owning hummus is like owning a folk song,'' says Mr. Galili. "Supposing someone could own hummus, why the Lebanese rather than the Syrians or Palestinians?''
 

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