I’ve never been to Israel or Lebanon or Egypt so I have no frame of reference for what is considered correct and delicious in situ. I have no idea of regional variations. The contest, organized by filmmaker Avital Levy, and billed as a fundraiser for her documentary “Hummus Wars” would feature “5-7 contestants – all very different – a couple Israelis, a few Americans, 1 or 2 who never made hummus before, a chef for Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks studios and one for an Egyptian restaurant.
Since 2007 Israel and Lebanon have battled with chickpeas and tahini over the Guinness World Record for the largest bowl of hummus. As the years go by the competition has pushed the size from a paltry 900 lbs to the current Lebanese behemoth bowl at 23,042 lbs (see photo above). The title has gone back and forth across the border over the years.
The competition at a private home in the Hollywood Hills featured American, Israeli and Egyptian competitors. How could I turn down such an excellent opportunity to further my hummus education? My fellow judges were Dudi Caspi, writer for Shavua Israel and hummus lover and Dan Katzir, filmmaker and hummus blogger. The MC started the evening off with the comment, “The moon is rising over the trees like a big bowl of hummus.”
Entries ranged from a lemony, super smooth Egyptian puree to a rough mash made in the pre-blender/food processor style. There was an assertive SoCal version made with Jalapenos and a New York entry that was dense and sweetened with caramelized onions. Cumin was omnipresent in some and nearly absent in others. A couple could have used a little salt. I learned a lot, laughed even more and learned that democracy is a powerful thing. Turns out that we judges came to the same conclusion as the audience “tasters” who were texting their faves.
The winner for 2012 was the super smooth lemony hummus made by Egyptian Nancy Boules of Cafe Dahab. Runner up was 70 year old Jerusalemite Ram Alkaly, represented by his son Ben.