Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Food

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Food

Article excerpt

In the Middle East, the hummus wars rage on. One Arab-Israeli restaurateur mounted an offensive with four tonnes of the stuff

Forget news of Brexit and the Trump presidency all that future generations will want to know is how you coped during the great hummus shortage of 2017. For those spared the horror, I refer to that difficult week in April when the space between the taramasalata and the tzatziki in most UK supermarket chains stood sadly empty, save for short notices announcing a temporary lack of stock "due to a production issue".

According to social media, the mass recall--"taste issues" were blamed--signalled "the end of the world"; or, at the very least, a pressing issue for the next election. "If the Lib Dems don't make the hummus crisis a centrepiece of the campaign they don't really care about Remainers," as one tweet put it.

Though it sounds like the stuff of right-wing parody, the hummus war is real. Hostilities began in 2009 when a Lebanese delegation at a French trade fair claimed to have heard Israeli exhibitors promoting the dish as an old Israeli speciality. Enraged, they organised an assault on the world record for the largest dish of hummus.

"We want the whole world to know that hummus [is] Lebanese, and by breaking [into] the Guinness Book of World Records, the world should know our cuisine, our culture," the then minister of tourism declared at the ceremony where Guinness presented Lebanon with its award.

The record didn't stand for long: a furious Arab-Israeli restaurateur hit back early the following year with a four-tonne response--and though there has as yet been no comeback to Beirut's successful counterattack four months later ("Whether it's with hummus, tabbouleh or weapons, our struggle continues," as one participant put it, somewhat ominously), the war goes on. …

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