A Pita-ful Accomplishment in Israel – Lebanon Food Wars


Two weeks after a group of Lebanese chefs reclaimed a hummus world record from Israel and set a new falafel record, a new front in the international garbanzo wars opened here.

As part of “Celebrate Israel Week,” which included an Israeli-flag raising in Lower Manhattan and the annual Salute to Israel parade along Fifth Avenue, the Jewish Community Relations Council last week sponsored a new world record, soon to be certified by the Guinness Book of Records.

The world’s largest falafel ball.

But at 24 pounds, with a diameter of l foot-33⁄4 inches, it looked more like a flying saucer than like a sphere.

Under a cloudless Jerusalem-like sky, on the open roof of the Hudson Terrace night club on the West Side of Manhattan, the Guinness contender was unveiled before an invitation-only crowd of 100 political dignitaries and Jewish community leaders who feasted on normal-size falafel and Israeli salad and egg rolls.

“This is a celebration. We decided to establish a world record,” said Michael Miller, JCRC executive vice president, at left in inset.

The biggest-ever falafel was created earlier that day at Olympic Pita, an Orthodox Union-certified restaurant in Midtown. The recipe included 21 pounds of chickpeas, the main ingredient, as well as 5.5 pounds of onions, and industrial strength amounts of various spices.

No world record pita bread accompanied the falafel. “Maybe next time,” said Efraim Menashek, Olympic Pita partner.

“We made history here today,” declared Jennifer Falk, Salute to Israel co-chair.

The New York record followed a dual effort by Beirut chefs: the largest amount of hummus ever produced, nearly 12 tons, eclipsing a recently set Israeli record for Middle East bragging rights; and the most-ever falafel produced, more than five tons.

Israelis and Lebanese both claim the hummus and falafel as their national dishes.

Call it war and (chick) peas.

Competition for the biggest-falafel title is likely, said Micah Halpern, veteran expert on terrorism and nouveau falafel maven, part of a panel of celebrity judges who certified the falafel’s authenticity. “I expect it.”

What’s in store for 2011?

Plans are under way, says the JCRC’s Miller, to make “the world’s largest gefilte fish.”

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