LEBANON: Chefs smash world hummus and tabouleh records
Beirut's Saifi Market on Sunday was filled with the sounds of chopping, cheering and the sweet, grassy smell of tons of freshly cut parsley.
Thousands of visitors showed up over the weekend to cheer on 250 sous chefs and 50 of their instructors from the Kafaat School of Catering as they toiled over two days to beat the Guinness record for the world's biggest hummus plate and tabbouleh salad. The final weigh-in for hummus on Saturday was 2,056 kilograms, or 4,532 pounds, more than quadruple the previous record.
On Sunday, the tabbouleh came in at 3,557 kilograms, or 7,841 pounds -- more than 3 tons.
The vessel itself, a giant, rotating terracotta-colored hummus bowl, won the distinction of world's largest plate.
Supporters who gathered for the final tabbouleh countdown were rewarded with a bowl of the parsley and cracked wheat salad, but the hummus, which does not keep as well, was sent as feed to a pig farm, according to Fadi Abboud, president of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, which organized the event.
The "Hummus Is Lebanese and So Is Tabbouleh" festival was a celebration of all things Lebanese, with local businesses hawking everything from Lebanese beer to olive oil, soap, sweets, nuts, and, of course, hummus."It's a nice event, and everyone should know that tabbouleh and hummus are Lebanese," said Rana Karaki, who was accompanied by her 7-year-old son, Omar.
"That's the biggest bowl I've ever seen!" said Omar, spreading his arms for emphasis.
But the festival was more than an excuse for a fun family outing. It is part of the industrialists' ongoing campaign to challenge Israeli claims to hummus. The association appears to have backed down from its original demand that Lebanon have exclusive rights to hummus, similar to France's claim on Champagne, but its members have not given up on promoting Lebanese hummus as the tastiest in the world.
"We were not trying to prove something, but to remind people that we should take the international market more seriously," Abboud told The Times. "[In the U.S.], if you question that hummus is Israeli, you're an outcast, but hummus existed long before Israel."
As for the Lebanese obsession with breaking world records (Lebanon also holds the records for the largest plate of kibbe, a meat pastry, the largest floor lamp and the longest set of wind chimes), Abboud attributed it up to people's love of competition and community.
"The Lebanese do have a competitive spirit, but what is most important is that people participated from all over the country, so we prove the Lebanese are united when it comes to economics and nationalist feelings," he said, adding: "lessons for our politicians, I hope."
-- Meris Lutz in Beirut
Video: Lebanese turn out to celebrate tabbouleh and all things Lebanese. Credit: Meris Lutz / YouTube