I’m going to be starting a new feature all about tapas soon, so let’s start by finding about what they are.
It’s thought that originally in the wine-making regions of Andalucia, a cover in the form of a small plate or lid was placed over glasses of wine to keep fruit flies away. Titbits of food were later placed on the lid to be eaten with the wine.
The word “tapar” in Spanish means “to cover”, which is where we get the word “tapas” from.
How wonderful that Spaniards thought it unacceptable that a fly ends up in your drink, but it´s fine if it lands on the accompanying snack!
Other stories suggest that tapas were invented by a bar owner in Seville, who decided to put a cover (tapa) over his guests´ glasses of wine, using a slice of bread to keep out flies. He later put a piece of ham or cheese on top, so that his customers could have a bite to eat with their drink.
Either way, the idea spread, so that nowadays the types of food served as tapas are limitless. Most Spaniards don´t drink alcohol without a tapa and many bars, especially in southern Andalucia, provide them free of charge.
The original Spanish “fast food” is usually displayed in refrigerated glass cabinets on the bar and served in small terracotta glazed dishes. Some examples of the type of tapas normally available include gambas (whole cooked prawns in their shells), boquerones (fresh anchovies in olive oil, vinegar and garlic), chorizo (spicy Spanish sausage), albondigas (meatball…often in a creamy almond sauce), queso (cheese…often manchego), habas con jamon (broad beans with ham), ensalada rusa (Russian salad) or just a few olives.
Your choice of tapas is usually accompanied by a small piece of crusty bread which helps to counteract the adverse effects of the alcohol through drinking on an empty stomach.
What a sensible idea!
In many establishments, if you stand at the bar along with the locals you will be given one tapa free with each drink you buy.
That’s right …. free food!
Should you choose to sit away from the bar, you can pay for a tapas or two (usually about one euro in this part of Spain), or opt for a larger serving known as a ración (ration) or medio ración (half ration). This is a great way to eat a variety of dishes, and a pretty sociable activity as groups generally tend to share their dishes.
The food is generally very good, even in remote villages around the Axarquia.
Where is your favourite tapas bar? Which tapa do you choose, time and time again?
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