Vamos a tapear…
There are several stories about the origin of tapas, which are a part of the folklore:
Some say tapas came to be when King Alfonso X "The Wise" decreed that “Mesones” (drinking establishments) were not to serve wine if not accompanied by a small bite to eat. This was a wise precaution to counteract the adverse effects of alcohol on those who, through lack of money to buy a nourishing meal, drank alcohol on an empty stomach.
Others say that tapas came to be when King Alfonso XIII on an official visit to the province of Cadíz came upon an establishment called in Ventorillo del Chato (still in existence today) and decided to go in to rest for a while. The king ordered a glass of Jerez (Sherry), as the waiter was bringing the glass of Jerez to him a strong wind came in from outside at which point the waiter decided to place a small slice of ham on top of the glass of Jerez. The king asked the waiter the reason why he had placed the slice of ham on the glass and the apologetic waiter explained that he did not want the Jerez to get ruined by the sand coming in from outside thus he placed the ham as a tapa (lid) to prevent the drink from spoiling . The king liked the idea and when it was time to order another he requested that it be served the exact same way. And so the tradition of the tapa spread throughout Spain, and continues right up to the present day.
In the beginning a tapa consisted of a slice of ham, some chorizo or other cold cut, or sometimes these were substituted by cubes of cheese. Nowadays tapas are much more diverse, varying according to the taste and gastronomic traditions of each region.
Whatever the true origin of Spanish Tapas, I have to tell you they are delicious!!!
Let’s learn a little more about these wonderful dishes, shall we…
Spanish Tapas usually come in four portions:
Un pincho - is the smallest occasionally on a stick or in between bread
Una tapa - about two pinchos on a saucer
Media-racíon - or half plate
Racíon - full plate
This short Spanish tapas glossary includes the most commonly found dishes.
Aceitunas rellenas , stuffed olives, usually with pimiento, anchovy or tuna
Albondigas: Meatballs, usually veal, but sometimes pork or beef.
Almendras saladas: Salted almonds.
Boquerones en vinagre: Mild white vinegar-cured Spanish anchovies
Calamares: Squid either rellenos ( stuffed), a la romana, (battered and fried) or en su tinta (their own ink)
Chanquetes: Battered whitebait.
Chorizo al vino: Sausage in red-wine sauce.
Croquetas: Deep-fried breaded croquettes, filled with thick béchamel sauce with ham, tuna, chicken or other fillings.
Empanadas: Flaky pastries that are usually filled with tuna but also can be stuffed with meat.
Ensaladilla Russa (Russian salad) a mayonnaise-rich potato salad with onions, peppers, peas and often tuna.
Flamenquines: Breaded ham or pork rolls.
Fritura de pescado (Small deep-fried fish) a specialty of Seville.
Gambas al ajillo: Shrimp cooked in garlic-seasoned oil.
Jamón Ibérico: High-quality ham from pigs fed on acorns.
Jamón Serrano: Classic Spanish-style ham.
Queso Manchego: A delicious firm Cheese made from the milk of sheep
Mejillones al vapor: Steamed mussels.
Patatas bravas: Fried potatoes served with salsa brava (spicy tomato sauce)
Pimientos de Padrón: Tiny flash-fried green peppers, keep in mind that some of them can be extremely hot. My family and I sometimes play this game where the other person picks the pimiento (pepper) for you to eat in the hopes that you get the hot one and have a laugh at your expense.
Pincho moruno: Grilled meat on skewers.
Pollo al ajillo: Chicken with garlic.
Revuelto: Scrambled eggs often with asparagus or other vegetables.
Tortilla Española: Potato omelet, served at room temperature
If you find all of these choices a bit daunting or you are not sure which tapas bars to go to, since they are so many, check out what people are saying about the wonderful tapas tours offered for the cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. You can never go wrong with tapas, so unleash your inner adventurer and try everything….you will be glad you did!!!