Bsisa is a variety of mixtures of roasted cereals ground with fenugreek and aniseed and cumin and sugar. This kind of food is known throughout Tunisia and Libya. Its history goes back a long way, and travellers and nomads used to take bsisa with them on their journeys since it was both full of nutritional value and easy to carry in its ground powder form.
The herbs and spices that are added to the mixture can vary, and the mixtures can also be used as a liquid when added to milk or water, creating a strongly floured drink called Rowina. The most common use for bsisa is to mix them with olive oil into a paste. This is then typically eaten with dates or figs for a quick meal which is energy-rich and healthy. 'Howira' is a similar mixture to Bsisa, however of a darker complexion and consists of similar ingredients.
It is eaten by Tunisian and Libyan Jews in various circumstances, and especially the first day of the Hebrew month, Nisan as this is the day the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was erected (in this case, the food is named bsiset el-marquma or simply Bsisa). The food is powder that consists of wheat and barley, which represents the cement that was used in the Mishkan. Additionally, the Mother puts her gold ring into the Bsisa which represents the gold that was also used in the building of the Mishkan. Before eating the father blesses in Arabic while he mixes the Bsisa with oil, which resembles the oil used in the Mishkan. The key to his house is used to mix the Bsisa with the oil and this symbolizes the "opening" of the 'new year' The father and family recite in turn:
Arzekna warzek menna
- Cp. Vermondo Brugnatelli, "Elementi per uno studio dell'alimentazione nelle regioni berbere", in: D. Silvestri, A. Marra, I. Pinto (a c. di), Saperi e sapori mediterranei. La cultura dell'alimentazione e i suoi riflessi linguistici (Napoli, 13-16 ottobre 1999), Napoli, 2002, vol. III, pp. 1067–1089.
- Rula Attia, "Tunisian Bsisa", "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-25. Retrieved 2014-02-06.]
- Bsisa and Howira in Libyan Food Blog
- Zumita in Libyana
- Cp. Mordekhai Cohen, Gli ebrei in Libia. Usi e costumi, translated and annotated by Martino Mario Moreno, Firenze, Giuntina, 1994, p. 81-82. ISBN 978-88-85943-95-7