The History of Spanish Tapas

DSCN0998
A Tapas Bar on Barcelona's La Rambla. Typical in every way, except it's empty!

We recently returned from Spain, where I fell in love with Tapas – bite-sized items often sold “by the stick” (as shown on the counter in the photo, above).  When it comes time to pay the piper (or the Flamenco Guitarist as the case may be) your empty skewers are tallied up and your bill calculated.  Very low-tech and very effective.

Tapas offer a perfect solution to what to serve when your friends stop by your place for a glass of wine before heading out to an evening event.  Serving one or several of these small plate items will make you a most appreciated host(ess).  This is sort of the idea behind Spanish Tapas as well, except most urban dwellings are too small to have people over – so the pre-event socializing occurs in the many Tapas bars.

The Spanish verb Tapeo can be defined as “the act of wandering from bar to bar, arm-in-arm with a friendly group that expands and contracts as the social event unfolds” – that’s the definition I liked best, so I’m stickin’ with it.  In each Tapas bar (Taberna), a parade of platters invites passers-by to stop in and linger a while.

The origin of Tapas is rather unclear, but food historians tend to credit the Spanish King Alfonso X, who decreed that all tabernas must serve a bit of food (tapa) with each glass of wine.  The word comes from the verb tapar, which means “to cover”.  This seeming non-sequitur suddenly makes sense once you learn that a small plate – the perfect size for a bite-sized, savory treat – was specified as the cover of choice for a wine glass, thus protecting it and its valuable contents from flies, dust or sneaky neighbors.

Several of the following recipes were inspired by our favorite Tapas items from our recent trip.  They’re surprisingly easy to prepare and delicious with your wine, so I hope you’ll try them, and enjoy them as much as we did!  And an added benefit to this way of eating?  It compliments a wide variety of wines!  In fact, the dishes are so small, varied and numerous, that I saw individuals pair them with everything from sparkling wines to whites to rose to robust reds from Priorat or Rioja.  Fun and conviviality are the only guidelines here!

Happy MerchantCheers,
Dave the Wine Merchant

866-746-7293

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.