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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Take THIS, Lebanon!!

A few months ago, the Lebanese got all huffy about the fact that Israeli hummous was being sold abroad as an "Israeli" foodstuff.

They promptly went whining to the E.U. and complained that hummous, a dish known all over the Middle East, should be trademarked solely to Lebanon.

This is, of course, all about money. The Lebanese don't care that Syrians and Turks or whoever eat and sell hummous, for example, but what galls them no end is that Israel markets more hummous to the rest of the world than Lebanon does. They're asking Big Brother--oooops, the E.U.---to designate hummous as a "Lebanese" specialty so that any other country (hah!-they mean Israel) who calls their product, for example, Israeli hummous, can be sued.

The French did this with champagne; the Greeks did it with feta cheese; the Italians did it with Parmesan and Gorgonzola cheeses.

What the Lebanese miss in this argument is that champagne is regional--it originated only in the province of Champagne; ditto Parmesan cheese. I haven't a clue how the Greeks got away with "feta" but I'm sure it ticked off the Danes, who make a decent "feta" of their own.

But hummous? Calling hummous "Lebanese" is like insisting that beer is Iraqi. Don't laugh -- the earliest beer recipe in history was found in Sumerian ruins. Think the Germans and Czechs would sit still for that?

Hummous is Middle Eastern. Even the rest of the neighborhood, ranging from cool to downright hostile to Israel, is not getting on the bandwagon for "Lebanese" hummous. The overall tone of blogs, letters and op-eds has been "yawwwwwnnn" around the Mediterranean, with a few Arab writers pointedly stating that hummous is Arab, not merely Lebanese, so maybe the Lebanese should shut up about this already.

What next? A regional trademark war over who gets to call their fruits "olives?" Maybe the Italians want to get on board and insist that no menu outside of Italy can list "pasta" as a dish?

But undaunted by the Lebanese tirade and hummous cook-off, Israelis responded with a different world-record-setting dish: meorav Yerushalmi. A group of 9 chefs got together at Machane Yehuda souk, and cooked up the world's biggest example of this local specialty.

NO ONE can claim this dish except Jerusalem Jews. It's actually delicious although the pictures posted of the event wouldn't lead you to believe it. [Hit the link in the title].

Meorav's origins were poverty. Jerusalem Jews didn't have it easy under either the Turks or the British, and then in the war for Independence, nearly starved to death due to the Arab blockade of Jerusalem where food rationing included items like one egg every other week for protein. Even after Independence, meat rationing was in effect for years.

What did we eat? We ate meorav Yerushalmi, known in English as Jerusalem mixed grill. [The very best is supposed to be found on Agrippas Street at restaurant Chatzot, but since the link to that site was broken in the reviews I've read, maybe the restaurant has succumbed to the Great Recession? I happen to know that the best hummous in town is served at Yossi's mom's house but you're out of luck unless you know her...]

Meorav is made by grilling a mixture of chicken meat, chicken livers, hearts, kidneys and other innards (don't grimace--what do you think you're eating when you eat a non-kosher hotdog? Trust me, if you don't know, you don't want to know...) with thinly sliced onions and seasoned with unique spices, served up with pita bread. (Shall we fight about who has the trademark on pita bread? Let's talk matzah!!)

The nicer grills serve meorav with tehina, and often tabouleh, spicy Morrocan carrots, or kruv salad (chopped cabbage dressed with lemon, oil and vinegar), or Arab salad (yes, it's called "Israeli salad" in San Francisco, but Israelis call it "Arab salad," a delicious concoction of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs and dressed with lemon and oil).

So Israelis, undeterred by Lebanon's one-upsmanship in the hummous competition for the Guinness Book of Records, came back with the record for the World's Largest Meorav Yerushalmi.

And we always serve it with hummous. Israeli hummous. B'teavon!

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