The Tapas Story

Tapas, said to have originated in the Seville area of Andalucia, are small dishes of food , ranging from a bowl of olives to a gourmet meal in itself, served with a drink. Although tapas are not so much a kind of food as a Spanish way of eating.

The tradition of eating tapas is mostly about the social event, sharing good food, good drinks and good times with friends and family. Bars pride themselves in their elaborate dishes and variety as well as their lively and enticing environment.

The word “tapar” means “to cover”. Widely thought to have originated at the beginning of the 20th century from a bar landlord serving a piece of ham over a drink to cover it (perhaps to ward off fruit flies). Visually appealing to the patron, and perhaps increasing their thirst (and therefore beverage sales) with the saltiness of the ham, different tapas started being served over the drinks and a tradition was born.

Also rumoured is that Spanish King Alfonso the 10th, suffering from an illness, had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals. Once recovered from the disease, the wise king decreed that no wine was to be served in any of the inns in the land of Castile unless accompanied by something to eat. This was a wise precaution to counteract the effects of alcohol by those drinking on an empty stomach.

Tapas can be grouped into two main categories, according to how easy they are to eat: cosas de picar and cazuelas. Cosas de picar (meaning “things to nibble”) basically refer to finger food, such as olives, caperberries or nuts. If a utensil is required to eat the food, the tapa is called cazuelas, these will be more elaborate “little dishes” that usually come in sauce, for example , albondigas (meatballs) or shrimp fried in garlic.