A Tunisian family tradition in summer is preparing and canning food reserves for the year; it’s called El OULA.
The summer months in Tunisia represent an intense period of agricultural work because that is when many major crops are harvested and processed for preservation; such as hard wheat to tomatoes to chili peppers and almonds and many others.
The traditional practice of processing harvested crops, also known as El Oula, was born out of a need for survival. Indeed, El Oula is meant to ensure families have enough food at hand to get them through the rest of the year.
This processing comes in many forms depending on the ingredients at hand; curing, sun-drying, lacto-fermentation, and so on. With the industrialization and urbanization of the food industry, this traditional and extremely labor intensive custom is becoming increasingly rare.
Prior to the industrialization of the Tunisian food industry, most of the population was living in rather rural areas where such labor intensive practices were still deemed essential.
El Oula is also a way for women in provincial and rural areas to maintain a form of financial autonomy. Couscous, Bulgur, M’hamssa, chili peppers, figs, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato paste, among other hand-made things can all be organically processed for preservation.
Although young people are sadly abandoning the tradition due to urbanization and the development of supermarkets, older generations are trying hard to preserve it.
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