Tuesday, May 3, 2011
In Abu Ghosh, 'hummus' is king
Abu Ghosh secures Guinness world record for largest dish of hummus
The picturesque Arab-Israeli village of Abu Ghosh, just 15 minutes drive from Jerusalem, is well-known for the annual vocal music festivals held in spring and fall, the near perfect acoustics in the village churches, and some of the finest hummus restaurants in Israel. Last week (8 January 2010) under perfectly clear blue winter skies, 50 chefs prepared over four tons of hummus, beating the Guinness World Record set in Lebanon just months ago.
Presided over by Guinness adjudicator Jack Brookbank, watched by hundreds of spectators and recorded by dozens of media outlets, the record hummus was dished out into a six-meter (20 foot) satellite dish provided by sponsors, weighing in at 4,087.5 kilos (8992.5 pounds), about twice as much as the previous record.
Jawadat Ibrahim, owner of the Abu Ghosh restaurant, organized the event in the eponymous village that attracts thousands of visitors, mainly at the weekends, who come in search of the perfect hummus - a simple but tasty dish of chickpeas, sesame paste, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic.
In May 2008, Israeli hummus manufacturer Tzabar set the Guinness Record for the largest plate of hummus ever made. The Lebanese quickly broke the record with their own attempt a year later. Juwdat Ibrahim knows very well that he could be fanning the flames for a new Middle East war. But unlike rockets, Ibrahim's ammunition comes from a family hummus recipe.
Upping the ante against Lebanon, which retaliated against Israel's Guinness Record last year by cooking a plate of hummus clocking in at two metric tons - about 4,500 lbs - Ibrahim's family and friends from the village of Abu Ghosh, Israel, set their sights on cooking the largest plate of hummus in the world.
Ibrahim founded Israel's most famous hummus restaurant in 1993. Since then, the village's name Abu Ghosh has been synonymous with great hummus, and also for its tolerant atmosphere, which invites Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together in co-existence.
To make it official, an expert from Guinness World Records flew in from London on Friday to measure the final product: a four-ton (almost 9,000 pound) plate of hummus, prepared by 400 volunteers.
Since announcing his intentions, Ibrahim, an Israeli Arab who also lives in Abu Ghosh, a village situated just off the main road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Arab world has been paying close attention, he says. This may be partly due to the fact that different countries in the Middle East are vying to lay claim to the chickpea dip, usually eaten as breakfast with big chunks of pita bread.
In recent years, Israel and Lebanon have been in stiff competition, each country trying to outdo the other with the largest bowl of dip. The Lebanese say that Israelis should keep their hands off the hummus; that it's Lebanese food. Meanwhile, Israeli Arabs say that hummus is Palestinian food, something that has belonged to their people and culture for generations.
"It's already news in the Arab world and they've been calling me since yesterday," Ibrahim tells ISRAEL21c. "I am happy that through hummus, we can change the subject of the Middle East conflict. Fighting over food is much better than fighting over anything else."
Ibrahim, who began organizing his crew of Muslim, Christian and Jewish volunteers two months ago, estimates that about 10,000 pita breads will be needed to consume all the hummus made on Friday. The public has been invited to come and eat.
When the Arab media asks him why such a big plate of hummus and for what, Ibrahim has the perfect answer no-one can refute: "I am saying to people in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt: I know the situation is complicated because there is no peace, but I would love it to happen one day, that we can cook one plate of hummus - about 10,000 tons - to share with the whole Middle East."
Ibrahim is especially proud that Israeli Arabs and Jews are orchestrating this particular endeavor together. They've been working day and night to succeed, he says. "For us as a people, we want a normal life. We want to live in a peaceful way. Through this kind of effort and what you see in Abu Ghosh, we can show the world that we can do it."
Abu Ghosh, he points out, is not just a village. "It is one big family of 7,000 people. We live a normal life, and accept everybody. A lot of people have moved to live in Abu Ghosh. They are Jewish, Muslim and Christian. We make them part of the family. The way we live our normal and happy lives could be an example for the whole Middle East to follow," concludes Ibrahim.
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A lottery millionaire bets on chickpea paste to continue his good fortune, setting up shop in the little Arab town where he grew up.
The predominantly Arab town of Abu Ghosh in the scenic hills west of Jerusalem is known for its world-class hummus, the creamy chickpea paste that's central to Mideast cuisine. The town has 15 restaurants, almost all specializing in the stuff. But perhaps the most famous one is the Abu Ghosh Restaurant, opened in 1993 by Jaodat Ibrahim.
Last January, Ibrahim decided to go for a world's record. As verified by a Guinness Book of World Records representative, he prepared enough hummus to fill a large satellite dish. The paste weighed almost 9,000 pounds, edging out a Beirut restaurant for the title.
Ibrahim started his business after winning the lottery in Chicago, and chose to invest his winnings in the place where he'd grown up. The strategy paid off. His restaurant gets about 15,000 patrons on weekends, especially Saturdays when most Israeli restaurants are closed for Shabbat.