In early May, 300 Lebanese chefs made the world’s largest hummus batch, using eight tons of chick peas, two tons of tahini, two tons of lemon juice and 20 gallons of olive oil for their dish. Upon completion, the giant hummus plate weighed 10,452 kilograms, which brought the Lebanese chefs a Guinness World Record.
More importantly, it gave Lebanon an important victory over Israel; Israeli chefs had held the record for the largest batch of the famous Middle Eastern delicacy.
“If we don’t tell Israel that enough is enough, and we don’t remind the world that it’s not true that hummus is an Israeli traditional dish, then the Israelis will keep on marketing it as their own,” said Fadi Abboud, head of Association of Lebanese Industrialists.
The debate over who invented hummus has intensified over the past couple of years, as sales of hummus have boomed around the world. “Israel has succeeded in marketing hummus around the world,” says David Abithol, a Canadian Jew who lives in Jerusalem and runs the blog, Jewlicious. “The Lebanese don’t like that. It’s all about business.”
In the United States alone, sales of supermarket hummus increased by 35 percent between 2006 and 2009. The Association of Lebanese Industrialists wants hummus to get the same legal protection as feta cheese, which the EU stipulates has to be made in Greece.
In fact, the delicious chickpea spread often becomes a national weapon.
“In the big debate between Israelis and Arabs on borders, the future of Jerusalem, settlements and so on, hummus is quite often a source of disagreement,” explains Dr. Ahron Bregman, an Israeli lecturer in War Studies at Kings College, London.
“I once served on a panel as a Palestinian writer. I said, as a gesture of goodwill, that not all is bad between Israelis and Palestinians: We both love hummus. My Palestinian colleague, a very nice man, shot back “but you agree, don’t you, that we invented it.”
“It does show the length to which the Arab-Israeli conflict is a zero sum game,” says Bregman.
“The idea is, whatever I win you lose and whatever you win I lose — even when it comes hummus. By the way, I do really think that the Israeli hummus tastes better than the Lebanese.”