Lebanese chefs have made a giant plate of hummus to shame the Israelis, who have been manufacturing their own version of the paste and exporting it around the world. The folks in Lebanon want everyone to know that hummus is Lebanese and that the Israelis are vulgar copycats. A noble objective, you might think, but what then? There is no evidence that consumers are dissatisfied with the counterfeit product or care who makes it. If the Lebanese really want to get even they should start exporting strudel and see how the Israelis like it. It could lead to a new form of low-intensity warfare where you mimic the culinary habits of your enemy to sow confusion in their ranks. But I hope it doesn’t come to that – food fights are terribly futile and no one wins in the end.
It’s good to see the Lebanese take pride in their native dishes. For many years, their image was sullied by Corporal Max Klinger of the 4077th M*A*S*H. For those not familiar with the show, Klinger was a Lebanese-American buffoon who thought he could get out of the army by wearing ladies’ clothes. Hoping to get a medical discharge by convincing everyone he was nuts, he succeeded only in convincing them he was a gay transvestite. The ironic thing is that Klinger wasn’t homosexual at all, which was just as well, because a gay man with a nose his size would never have got laid. It is a curious aspect of human sexuality that only heterosexual women find big noses attractive. And not all of them, by any means, it’s very much a niche market.
But let’s get back to the hummus. The Israelis are clearly in the wrong and should stop pretending they know how to make Arab food. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s condiments,” sayeth the Lord their God. Once again, the Children of Israel have broken the commandments of Johnny Jehovah and are asking for a family-sized can of whoopass. Maybe He’ll force them to eat manna-from-heaven again, a fitting penance for culinary malfeasance given that it tastes like bird crap. Or maybe He’ll send a plague of snails to devour their herbs and season their meats with green slime. The Land of Israel shall resound with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, particularly when the dinner gong soundeth.
Let’s not single out the Israelis for blame though. All humans are guilty of stealing recipes, particularly from the animal kingdom. Take eggs, for example. Although no one knows whether the chicken came before the egg, it is beyond dispute that they both came before Delia Smith, the television housewife and cook. Yet the English Rose of Woking cracks them open without a word of gratitude to the humble hens that squatted and strained to produce them. Anyone would think that she’d laid them herself. If I were God, I would punish her for her vanity and presumption by making her incubate a fertile ostrich egg between her warm and wobbly thighs. For every yolk she has cruelly whisked, let her hatch a little ostrich chick and raise it as one of her own. It takes more than custard pies to get you into heaven.
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