BEIRUT: Lebanon will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest servings of hummus and tabouleh as part of a campaign to claim ownership of the traditional dishes. The attempt to break the world records will take place in the Saifi market in Downtown Beirut on October 24 and 25. The dishes are expected to stretch some 5,800 square kilometers. The two-day event will also see the participation of several Lebanese restaurants and artisans from the oil, souvenirs and craftsmanship industries, as well as a variety of entertainers, games and auctions.
The battle for national proprietorship of hummus and tabouleh began last year, when Fadi Abboud, the president of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, said his group would file a lawsuit to stop Israel from marketing exported hummus and other dishes as Israeli.
Although the exact origins of hummus have not yet been proven, the dish is one of the oldest known prepared foods in the Middle East and is believed to have originated in the Levant.
But Hummus is currently marketed around the world as an Israeli dish and a Greek dip, as well as other variations.
In the summer of 2008, Abboud drew attention to the issue of food copyright, noting that millions of dollars were being lost each year in the lucrative hummus market.
“I first noticed this piracy during the many international food exhibitions that we attended: Lebanese producers would find out that most of our specialties, such as hummus, falafel and baba ghannouj, were marketed as Israeli,” Abboud said. “Our cuisine is being dishonestly used and Israel is appropriating our dishes.”
Abboud noted that the popularity of the chickpea dip has spread. “Today, the fame of hummus has reached around the globe. Upscale restaurants in New York and London are serving gourmet versions of hummus and falafel as traditional Jewish dishes,” he said.
“We are talking about colossal losses as the hummus market is a robust one worth over $1 billion with the 500,000 tubs eaten a day in the United Kingdom alone,” he added. “If we win this fight, there is huge potential for Lebanon.
“We have been researching and documenting data to prove that 25 traditional dishes hail from Lebanon and deserve the EU’s Protected Designated Origin status, meaning they can be marketed under their name only if they were made in the country,” he said. “It is time that Lebanon registered its main food trademarks to avoid substantial losses like these. We are preparing to file an international lawsuit against Israel for claiming ownership of traditional dishes that are believed to be originally Lebanese. ”
George Nasrawi, head of the Syndicate of Lebanese Food Industries, said: “We endorse initiatives like these destined at protecting the Lebanese culinary heritage that we have exported to the world a while ago,” he said. “Moreover, the renowned Lebanese brand name Kortas was the first to can hummus and send it across the globe. We are keen on protecting our food and sustaining our position as pioneers.”
Ramzi Choueiri, manager of Al-Kafaat catering school, will be rallying support for the bid to break the records. “I am delighted and proud to be supervising this attempt. We are mobilizing some 250 young chef apprentices who will be preparing everything on site under the strictest hygiene regulations,” he said. “The general public will be able to taste safely the final product.”
“All of the ingredients that we are going to use are fresh with no chemical derivatives or substitutes. Imagine some 2.5 tons of lemon juice only! That says a lot concerning the colossal size of this event.,” he added.
Myriam Hoballah, regional product manager of ‘Waseet and official representative of the Guinness World Book of Records said: “Many tons are at stake here and we hope to successfully certify these attempts as Guinness World Records.”
Fady Jreissati, the vice president of IFP, which is organizing the event, said his group believed in the cause behind the “patriotic event.”
“Unfortunately the culinary aspect of our culture was long neglected,” he said. “Our goal is to return Lebanon to the culinary map and spread the Lebanese traditions and culture throughout the world.”
“Fight for your bite, you know you’re right” is the slogan for the campaign under which the record-breaking attempt will be held. – The Daily Star