BEIRUT – Lebanese chefs prepared a massive plate of hummus weighing over two tons Saturday that broke a world record organizers said was previously held by Israel — a bid to reaffirm proprietorship over the popular Middle Eastern dip.
"Come and fight for your bite, you know you're right!" was the slogan for the event — part of a simmering war over regional cuisine between Lebanon and Israel, which have had tense political relations for decades.
Lebanese businessmen accuse Israel of stealing a host of traditional Middle Eastern dishes, particularly hummus, and marketing them worldwide as Israeli.
"Lebanon is trying to win a battle against Israel by registering this new Guinness World Record and telling the whole world that hummus is a Lebanese product, its part of our traditions," said Fady Jreissati, vice president of operations at International Fairs and Promotions group, the event's organizer.
Hummus — made from mashed chickpeas, sesame paste, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic — has been eaten in the Middle East for centuries. Its exact origin is unknown, though it's generally seen as an Arab dish.
But it is also immensely popular in Israel — served in everyday meals and at many restaurants — and its popularity is growing around the globe.
The issue of food copyright was raised last year by the head of Lebanon's Association of Lebanese Industrialists, Fadi Abboud, when he announced plans to sue Israel to stop it from marketing hummus and other regional dishes as Israeli.
But to do that, Lebanon must formally register the product as Lebanese. The association is still in the process of collecting documents and proof supporting its claim for that purpose.
Lebanese industrialists cite, as an example, the lawsuit over feta cheese in which a European Union court ruled in 2002 the cheese must be made with Greek sheep and goats milk to bear the name feta. That ruling is only valid for products sold in the EU.
Abboud says that process took seven years and realizes Lebanon's fight with Israel is an uphill battle.
Meanwhile, he says, events like Saturday's serve to remind the world that hummus is not Israeli.
"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, they (Israelis) will keep on marketing it as their own," he said Saturday.
Some 300 chefs were involved in preparing Saturday's massive ceramic plate of hummus in a huge tent set up in downtown Beirut. The white-uniformed chefs used 2,976 pounds of mashed chickpeas, 106 gallons of lemon juice and 57 pounds of salt to make the dish, weighing 4,532 pounds.
It was not clear what the former Israeli record was, and organizers gave conflicting reports on when it was made.
But chefs and visitors broke into cheers and applause when a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records presented Abboud with a certificate verifying Lebanon had broken the previous record. The plate was then decorated with the red, green and white Lebanese flag.
A similar attempt to set a new world record will be held Sunday for the largest serving of tabbouleh, a salad made of chopped parsley and tomatoes, that Lebanon also claims as its own.