If there is one thing you have to seek as a foodie in Spain, it’s Tapas.
I am a trained chef and a lover of all things foodie, so when I visit any country my prime interest is to find the best bars, restaurants, street food, local markets and hidden eateries. It could definitely be called an obsession but I like to call it ‘research’! Having lived in Spain and now married to a Spaniard with a similar love of food and wine, I now indulge my passion and write about my adventures. But something that I adore above all other foodie experiences I have had in this world, is TAPAS!
There are so many versions of the story of how tapas was born, but my favourite is this: due to illness, the Spanish King Alfonso the 10th had to eat small amounts of food and drink wine between meals. After he had recovered, the King decreed that all wine served in Inns should always be accompanied by a bite. This helped the poor who frequently drank on empty stomachs. Perhaps the reason why he was known as the ‘the wise’ King or ‘el sabio’ in Spanish.
The spanish verb ‘tapar’ translates as ‘to cover’. It started as a complimentary piece of jamon, chorizo or bread served on top of a glass of wine and was a way of protecting it from flies. The saltiness of the tapas activated the thirst, lined the stomach of the punters and started to increase the sale of wine.
This over time has resulted in tapas now being as important as the glass of tipple in hand. It has most definitely evolved into something spectacular today, you can expect anything from a bowl of olives, jamon, anchovies, pimento peppers, salmorejo, to a small serving of a pork stew these days.
One aspect of the Tapas culture I love, is that it is very social and has become central to many people’s perceptions of Spanish life. Everything can be shared and you can always order bigger plates (Racion) if you are a group or simply would like more! I admire the creativity of this tradition as well as the incredible array of flavours you can experience in just one sitting, from the silky depths of Salmorejo to the saltiness of beautiful Santoña anchovies. This tradition never stops giving!
Andalucia is said to be the home of Tapas, but Sevilla boasts over 3000 tapas bars hidden in every corner. There is a tapas festival every year in February where every tapas constabulary participates whether officially or unofficially. This time of year is wonderful as it is not ridiculously hot nor overcrowded like in ‘Semana Santa’.
Tapas in Spain is like tea in England, it is part of the daily lives of every Spaniard wherever you go. As you travel around spain each area has its speciality integral to the local culture and social environment. Whether it’s Galician pulpo, Andalusian Gazpacho or Basque pintxos, you can help but explore the local gastronomy. This gives you endless enjoyment and with a glass of chilled Fino sherry in your hand, you can eat as much or as little as you like whatever time of the day.