I fell in love with all the foods in Spain, just I like I did everything else in Spain. One of my favorite food types was the tapas, or small plates, with a glass or two of delicious wine. But what are tapas? Tapas are known as small plates of food served with wine or alcohol in between meals. Tapas are very rarely served without wine or alcohol of some sorts. The Spanish have made dining on tapas an art form and they call it tapeo. It is not only a gastronomic adventure, but is also a way to socialize and gather with friends while enjoying these small bites of food and wine. Originally, tapas were not meant to be a meal in and of themselves, but they have evolved into that today. There is no specific type of food that falls into the tapas category, but rather they are small amounts of a variety of foods that are almost always accompanied with wine. Some forms use toothpicks and are called pinchos (pinchar means to prick) and the foods are served with a toothpick. The toothpicks are left on the plate as you finish them and the server/bartender counts up the number of toothpicks on the plate in order to determine the cost of the tapas plate. There are also pintxos, which almost always come with bread. Another category of tapas is called cosas de picar, meaning things to nibble, like olives or almonds. There are also croquettes or fried foods that are served in cazuelas or small earthenware casseroles. The possibilities are endless.
There are a few different theories as to how the tapas tradition originated. Some say it was started in the Andalusia region, where small pieces of ham or cheese were used to cover the wine or sherry to keep the flies and the dust out of the wine. The word tapas comes from the word tapar, which means to cover. People ate and drink in small quantities throughout the day rather than consuming larger, heavier meals due to the heat and the need to replenish themselves throughout the day. Another theory is that during the 13th century, tapas were created when King Alfonso X was ill and could only consume small amounts of food followed by small amounts of wine. Once he recovered, he then decreed that inns could not serve wine without serving food along with the wine. Some say the reason behind this decree was to enable the peasants to be able to get some much needed nutrition into their bodies rather than only drink, since they could not afford to purchase both food AND drink. All of these theories have merit to them, and no one really knows for sure how the tapas tradition really started, but eating and enjoying tapas has become legendary in the Spanish traditions and heritage, and now are known throughout the world. Everyone, in most countries, has their own “version” of tapas, but no one can really do it like the Spanish, unless they have learned the Spanish customs and ways that encompass the art of the tapas or the tapeo.
Our friends Priscilla and Jonathon were excited to hear about all our Spanish adventures, and so we decided to “gather and socialize” over our own tapas, that were influenced by those we enjoyed in Spain. As usual, we both made parts of the meal and combined our efforts and then enjoyed great food and great company to make the perfect summer evening.
Priscilla made the delicious gazpacho from yellow tomatoes and marinated shrimp along with the sauteed fingerling potatoes, as well as a scrumptious date and sticky toffee cake for dessert. Her gazpacho was MUCH better than what we had as out last meal in Madrid, but then that was at the hotel, and the food was OK but not phenomenal like it was everywhere else. I made my own version of artichokes with Serrano ham, which would fall into the pinchos category and the ahi tuna and roasted pepper and onion salad topped with a balsamic glaze served with warmed ciabiatta bread, which would be the pinxtos variety of tapas. And of course, there was wine. We brought a delicious fruity Spanish red that we brought back from Spain.
I will give you the recipes for my tapas contributions later. I want you to savor the flavors for now, to entice you for later. There is definitely more to come, so don’t go away. Ciao for now!