Starting about twenty-four hours ago my cell-phone, my regular phones, my email and my fax machine started demonstrating signs of going absolutely bonkers. It all started with an Associated Press report, later picked up by the Jerusalem Post (see their article at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite? ... 2FShowFull
) about the fact that Lebanon is considering suing Israel because "Israelis stole the recipe for humous" from them. I have since been interviewed by phone by AP, Reuters, The New York Times, the Boston Globe, The Guardian and several others about what I think of all of this. Sheesh…even our own Robin Garr sent me an email about this….
I'll admit that when I first heard about the potential lawsuit I burst out with a guffaw of laughter.
First of all, I congratulate those who thought of the idea as demonstrating that at least some Lebanese can be as gifted with out-and-out chutzpah as any Israeli. Second of all, the claim that humous is uniquely Lebanese is even more ridiculous than the claim that it is Israeli.
Four thousand years ago, as today, the main starch staples of the diet of the entire Middle East (let's say from Egypt up to and including Mesopotamia) were wheat, rice, lentils and humous beans. The most popular vegetable was eggplant; spices and herbs such as cardamom, parsley, rosemary, thyme, coriander, cumin and mint were used lavishly as were the various members of the onion family, including garlic. Lemons and peppers were popular; the principal cooking oil was olive oil; yogurt was widely used; and even though fresh fruits were the most popular dessert, sweets were much appreciated. Even then, eggplant was roasted, stuffed, fried or pureed; humous and tchina were already popular; and any vegetable large enough to have been stuffed was likely to have been filled with some combination of meat, vegetables and rice.
At that time no country or area had special claim to any of these foodstuffs or dishes made from them. As to tracing the source of humous we will probably have to return to Pharaohnic Egypt for clay jars that once contained ground chickpeas (humous beans) have been uncovered in the tombs of at least half-a-dozen Pharaohs, those along with other jars of spices, herbs and olive oil. And what were those meant for if not for the servants of the Pharaoh (who were frequently buried along with him whether they had reached their natural life-span or not) to prepare humous for him … well, and probably some falafel balls as well.
More than that – to the best of my knowledge, since the time Moses sent his spies out to explore the land and up to the current date – no Israeli has ever been dumb enough to claim humous as an Israeli invention.
Should it ever come to court, it will make a fascinating trial. Depending on where the trial is held, I will try to attend.
Several years ago I wrote a piece for an American magazine entitled "5000 years of Culinary History". Should anyone care to make their way through that, the article can be found online at http://www.stratsplace.com/rogov/israel/5000_years.htm