The Battle For Tabbouleh

The Beirut Spring

Making the world’s largest Hummus platter is a delicious, exciting and pointless exercise

In the Hollywood movie ‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan’, Adam Sandler plays an Israeli agent who just couldn’t get enough of ‘Khhummus’. He gorges on the delicacy by dipping everything from chocolate to chicken to his father’s eye glasses in it.

What we see as a goofy if harmless comedy,  Fadi Abboud, the president of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, sees as a sinister attempt to hijack our beloved Lebanese cuisine by our enemies down south. Mr. Abboud believes  that Lebanon is loosing hundreds of thousands of dollars because the world thinks that Hummus, Tabbouleh and Falafel are Israeli inventions.

So what is Mr. Abboud’s  plan to rectify that error? First, we break the Guinness world record for largest Hummus plate on earth. After that, we “file an international lawsuit against Israel for claiming ownership of traditional dishes that are believed to be originally Lebanese. ”

While Mr. Abboud’s intentions are doubtless good and the whole exercise will be a lot of fun (I mean come on, the online discussions this would spark? The “hummus is Lebanese” Facebook page? All priceless!), this all sounds to me like an exercise in futility.

Trying to prove that a dish was invented in a specific geographic area, let alone one as tiny as Lebanon, is like trying to pinpoint exactly where the Arabic language was invented. You can’t tell for at least two reasons. 1- this old dish was invented before current borders and ideologies. and 2- You don’t just invent a meal like that. It’s a process that took thousands of years and input from all kinds of peoples and areas.

And don’t get me started with claiming ownership by creating the world’s largest plate of the stuff. This Dubai-esque exercise sounds like a giant penis-measuring competition only adolescent boys would engage in. I just hope the Israelis won’t hop in and play the game. Besides, Mr. Abboud seems to be fighting an imaginary threat. In my experience, people in the US and the UK refer to our food -correctly- as “Middle Eastern” cuisine, with many even calling it Lebanese.

To wrap this up, let’s make that giant delicious bowl of Hummus, but let’s not pretend it’s anything other than a whole loads of fun..

I want to sincerely thank Ms.
Anissa Helou, the internationally known food writer, for pursuing the matter with some of the world’s leading experts on the matter. Please read more about her findings in the comments section.

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Tarek is the founder and chief researcher at Youngberry, a youth research and marketing firm dedicated to the region. Tarek founded and previously worked as Manager at Flip Media (Interactive Agency), (Job Site) and Consulting House Qatar (Consulting firm). He is researcher and writer on internet & disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship, and youth culture.