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Battle of the Balls
By David
Posted August 9, 2009

There's a story I enjoy telling about the battle waged by the Arab countries against Israel, over none other than falafel balls. The story of this battle is fun to tell because it contains humor, passion, national pride, and it even spans many generations and features deep-fried food. What could be better?

As most of you already know from first-hand knowledge, the mighty falafel ball measures 1-2 inches in diameter, and is comprised of a deep-fried mixture of ground beans and spices. It is often served with a pita and/or chopped salad, as well as a hummus or tahini dressing. Falafel is very commonly sold by street vendors in the Middle East, as it is inexpensive to produce, quick to cook, and quite yummy to eat.

But nothing is as simple as it should be in the Middle East. Enter the Arab-Israeli conflict, and falafel balls are being used as weapons of mass litigation. It seems that the Lebanese are perturbed (actually incensed is a better word) that Israelis refer to falafel as a national food. The Lebanese are suing Israel in international court, claiming that falafel is a Lebanese invention, and therefore, they and only they may lay claim to falafel as their national food.

Alrighty then...

The Lebanese are claiming that by marketing falafel as an Israeli food, the Lebanese fathers of falafel have been cheated out of tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Falafel Jihad? I Hope Not...
Falafel Jihad? I Hope Not...

At the same time, apparently, both the Syrians and Egyptians have also indicated that the gift of the falafel ball has sprung from within their national borders, perhaps even thousands of years ago.

Actually, some research suggests that pre-Arab Egypt may be the real cradle of falafel civilization. However, the ancient Egyptians would have to have sun god Ra, King Tut, and several of their cohorts resurrect their mummies to file a claim of ownership that would stick. If that doesn't happen, the Lebanese claim of supremacy probably wouldn't stand a snow (falafel) ball's chance in hell of succeeding.

Still, as we well know, when it comes to outrageous claims of Arab ownership over anything from land to deep-fried snacks, international organizations have been far from impartial. This means that the Lebanese lawsuit just may see more life than expected.

Meanwhile, as I stopped by Itzik HaGadol on Ventura Blvd in Encino, CA, for some Israeli salad action, I couldn't help but notice the irony that literally two doors down is where one of the area's best known Lebanese restaurants, Alcazar, is located.

Right here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, thousands of miles away from both Shuk HaCarmel and downtown Beirut, stand two fine culinary representatives of the falafel wars.

Both Itzik and Alcazar offer hummus and falafel, to be followed by nearly identically spiced skewered meats. I have to wonder if the restaurants' staff use the backdoors of their kitchens to borrow ingredients from each other if they happen to run out on any particular day.

Ah, probably not. More likely, Alcazar was there first. The evil, falafel-stealing Zionists invaded the mall, and are now brutally occupying an entire storefront, while laying claim to several parking spots for its customers.

Load those falafel balls into the pita canon, Ahmed. We will liberate our menu by force, if necessary!

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