Hummus war; St. Louis native’s photo exhibit

The Middle East isn’t exactly a stranger to war, so it should come as no surprise that there would be one centering on the origins of hummus, with Israelis and Lebanese each taking credit for its origins.

In downtown Beirut last week, 300 Lebanese chefs mixed up a 4,532-pound batch of hummus and topped it with a Lebanese flag, setting the new Guinness World Record for the largest hummus platter. The organizer told The Associated Press, “Lebanon is trying to win a battle against Israel by registering this new Guinness World Record and telling the whole world that hummus is a Lebanese product, it’s part of our traditions.”


The original record for the largest hummus dish was set by Israeli hummus company Sabra in 2007, before being superseded by another Israeli company, Hummus Tzabar, in 2008, the Forward newspaper reported.

The newspaper goes on to say that Lebanon’s Association of Lebanese Industrialists is taking the recent clash seriously, seeking to copyright the food and stop Israeli companies from marketing the dish overseas as Israeli, citing a 2002 European Union case which decided feta cheese must be from Greece to be labeled feta in the E.U.

While the origins of hummus remain unknown, Lebanon and Israel have a new competition: A recent Arabic-language cookbook from Ramallah claims that the dish is originally Palestinian.

* Kudos to St. Louis native and contemporary music photographer, Jacob Blickenstaff, 30, whose first major exhibition, “Still Life in Soul,” opens Friday, Nov. 6 at The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis. Blickenstaff has compiled an exhibition that explores the current life, activity and resurgence in the popularity of soul music through portrait, performance and documentary photography made since 2005. Currently based in New York, Blickenstaff says the passion and inspiration for his work came from an early interest in music that developed from his St. Louis upbringing and the city’s roots in soul, blues and R &B. Artists represented in the 40 photos in the exhibit include Bettye LaVette, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Lee Fields & the Expressions, Barbara Lynn, Maxine Brown, Roscoe Robinson, Harvey Scales, Candi Staton, Sir Lattimore Brown, Otis Clay, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Skip Pitts, Ben Cauley, Mighty Hannibal, John Gary Williams (of the Mad Lads), and many others. Meanwhile, proud mother Harriet Blickenstaff is among a local entourage, which includes several members of Central Reform Congregation, headed to Memphis for the opening.

* And now for something truly bizarre.

John Safran’s Race Relations, a controversial new eight-part series that began airing last week on Australian TV, is about interracial love “in the age of Obama.”

Safran, 37, who stars in the show, is an award-winning TV comedian and radio host who was born in Melbourne, brought up in a traditional Jewish household and educated at Yeshivah College, an Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch-run boys’ school.

His show, which has been denounced by the Australian Family Association as “the lowest point in Australian television history,” includes a scene in which he sniffs underwear he’s stolen from Jewish and non-Jewish women in a “scientific” experiment to determine if he was more attracted to non-Jewish women.

Safran says there is a serious side to his show about intermarriage, especially since, statistically, the chances of marrying someone from one’s own ethnic background are slim.

“Being Jewish, it’s such a potent issue in the community and I can engage with it,” he told JTA in an interview.

Since 1997, when he was filmed streaking through Jerusalem wearing only a scarf, Safran has produced some of the edgiest, raciest and most irreverent material ever screened on Australian TV. An editorial in The Australian newspaper slammed the new show as “contrived and pointless.” Jewish groups so far have remained silent.

* This one seems like a no-brainer: trading your pots, pans and plates for pearls; specifically pearl earrings designed by local artist Diane Katzman, whose work is wonderfully eclectic. MERS/Goodwill, a non-profit agency that provides for the vocational needs with disabilities or economic disadvantaged, is giving Katzman pearl earrings to anyone who donate dishes, pots, pans and other kitchenware. Just take your unused pots and pans as well as wedding gifts that are just sitting there to any area MERS/Goodwill. Pot, Pans and Plates for Pearls begins Nov. 16 and runs through Nov. 29. The rule is one set of Diane Katzman earrings for each donor. For a donation location, call 314-241-3464 or visit