A bit too often we have guests that are bit disappointed by a ‘tapas meal’ they have eaten somewhere on the road. They had expected something more. We then try to explain that tapas have become a meal (for tourists) rather than being the little bites next to a drink as it used to be. Tapas are snacks, canapés or finger food that originated here in Spain.
Tapas come in many different forms and can vary from town to town! But, what are they? Well, they can be practically anything from a chunk of tuna, cocktail onion and an olive skewered on a long toothpick, to piping hot meat with sauce served in a miniature clay dish – or anything in between. Tapas are served day in and day out in every bar and café in Spain. Tey were never ment to replace a whole meal.
So much a part of the culture and social scene that the Spanish people invented the verb tapear which means to go and eat tapas! In most regions, you must order and pay for a ración or serving, but especially in the province of Granada, one small tapa is complimentary with each round of drinks ordered. Tapas keep the Spanish fuelled for their sometimes long journeys from bar to bar before their midday meal, as well as in the evening before dinner.
There are several stories about the origin of tapas, which are a part of the folklore: A story claims that while on a long trip, King Alfonso had stopped to rest in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the southern province of Cádiz, and he ordered a glass of jerez (sherry). There was a gusty wind, so the inn keeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the sherry from getting dirty. King Alfonso apparently liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or “cover” just like the first.
Of course in some parts in Spain – such Pais Vasco – the tapa culture has developed to something more than that; there you have places where our guests would come every day to eat as much tapas as they can.
Whatever the true origin of tapas, prepare one or several, then enjoy them like the Spanish do – with a glass of wine and a relaxed attitude. ¡Ah! Divino…