|Contact Us | Site Map | Purchase terms and conditions | Online Shop|
Home > Did you know? > Specials > Tapas
TAPAS, A DELICIOUS SPANISH TRADITION
Tapas, over the centuries, have become an essential part of Spanish gastronomic culture. Going out for tapas or tapear (the Spanish verb derived from tapas), is a quintessentially Spanish way of approaching social life: relaxing, enjoying and sharing with friends.
When you ask for a glass of wine or a caña (glass of beer) at Spanish bars, you are also frequently given a tapa or snack to go with it. Olives, serrano ham, Spanish tortilla, chorizo, crisps, paella, almonds, mushrooms… any dish or bite can be served as a tapa.
Definition of Tapas
The Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, defines tapa as "any portion of food suitable for accompanying a drink"
History of Tapas
There are various versions regarding the origin of tapas as we know them now:
- Some historians say it was King Alfonso the Tenth (The Learned) who issued an order for all inns in Castilla to always serve wine accompanied by food, in order to avoid locals from getting too drunk. In this period, the tapa (literally, "cover", in Spanish) would have been placed on top of the jug or the glass, thereby "covering" (tapando) it, giving origin to the word tapa as a synonym for a snack provided with a drink.
The tapa was usually a slice of serrano ham, some slices of chorizo, or even a portion of cheese, which, in addition to accompanying the drink, served to avoid insects or dirt spoiling the locals' precious wine.
- Another version puts King Alfonso the Twelfth in the story. During an official visit to the province of Cadiz, the king entered an Andalusian inn, and asked for a glass of sherry. At that very moment, a gust of wind entered the inn, and in order to prevent the sherry from getting spoilt with beach sand, the innkeeper placed a slice of serrano ham over the royal glass.
The king rather liked this idea - he ate the tapa, drank the sherry, and asked the innkeeper to serve him another sherry with a tapa.
- Another version of the origin of tapas is that, in the past, farmers and workers needed to eat a small bite during their day of work in order to keep working till mealtimes. Main meals had a great fat content and were very heavy to digest, leaving them feeling too bloated to continue working in the field or workshop. They would postpone their mealtime for as long as possible in order to make the most of the morning hours of hard work, before eating their main meal. The mid-morning snack became an essential ritual.
Evolution of Tapas
Tapas are still an ingrained tradition in Spain, and have even been adopted by other countries. The long gap between breakfast (almost at dawn) and lunch (early afternoon) is one of the main reasons this tradition survives and is still going strong in Mediterranean countries such as Spain.
Tapas are usually accompanied by wine (increasingly higher quality wines are sought for the tapas ritual), though beer is evermore present nowadays. Tapas have greatly evolved over time, and can be anything from olives, nuts, ham and other cold cuts to traditional regional dishes, and, of course, sophisticated haute cuisine dishes. Many of Spain's greatest chefs participate in exquisite tapas contests, creating morsels that would satisfy the most demanding of palates.
Such is the passion in Spain for tapas that many restaurants and bars specialise in them, and their menu is limited to tapas. Going for tapas can even replace lunches or dinners, if you order enough different tapas to satisfy your appetite.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of going for tapas is its collective nature - enjoying a drink and a snack while standing, indifferent to tables and chairs, enjoying delicate and tasty bites in good company.