We thank our French friend Line, who sent us this article when she was living in Barcelona.
Generally enjoyed at the counter of the bar or sitting on a terrace, tapas are an essential feature of the Spanish gastronomic culture.
Usually tapas are accompanied by red wine in winter (all over Spain), also known as “El Chato” (the little one) and/or cider (in Asturias and the Basque Countries) to withstand the cold of the fields and of the great medieval houses. In summer they are eaten with a refreshing gazpacho.
According to the legend, it was Alfonso X the Wise, who, in the 10th century, decided that wine could not be served in Castile unless it was accompanied by food. Farmers and other workers, who could not always afford a full meal, started ingesting something small that allowed them to continue their work and at the same time avoiding the alcohol vapors to rapidly get to their heads.
The word tapas refers to an assortment of foods served as appetizers, aperitifs, or sometimes replacing the dinner.
Even if olives (in all their diversity and variations), dried fruit and meat are present all over Spain, their use varies according to the taste and gastronomic traditions of each region. All foods are allowed: meat, hams, fish, Spanish omelette, fried ham, paté, cheese, shellfish, anchovies, croquettes, potatoes, and, more recently, even paella, spring rolls and smoked fish. ..
We can distinguish between two kinds of tapas:
– The Basque tapas (pinchos) that, like in the Middle Ages, are accompanied by bread. If you want to eat these, ask for a dish when you enter the bar, and then pick from the tapas that you find on the counter. Help yourself. Keep the toothpick that you find on each tapas: the waiter will be able to know how many you have eaten and to make the bill.
– The tapas served in the rest of Spain are presented on a common plate, from which everyone helps himself .
In both cases you’ll be charged at the end.
What makes tapeo (going to eat tapas) most unique and enjoyable is its collective character. The expression “ir de tapas” (going for tapas) is used when doing the rounds of bars to enjoy different specialties in each one of them. In addition, according to tradition each group member pays for a round.