Thursday, 7 March 2013

History of Tapas: from King Alfonso to Modern Madrid

What are Tapas
Tapas are to Spain what Dim Sum is to China, Hors d'oerves to France, Meze to the Middle East., Chaat to Pakistan and India, Antojitos and Bar Food to the Americas, Izakaya to Japan. The word "tapas" is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, "to cover". In Spain, the main meals of the day is a late lunch around 2 pm and then a late dinner around 10pm, supplemented by smaller meals. In Spain, people go to bars afterwork to have a copa and typically small finger foods or " tapas" to tie them over until their late dinner.

History of Tapas
According to legend, the tapas tradition began when King Alfonso of Castile recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that taverns would not be allowed to serve wine to customers unless it was accompanied by a small snack or "tapa." He issued a royal decree that insisted that everyone should take food with their drinks. A slight variation of this one is that the benevolent king simply insisted that food should be taken with any drink out of concerns for the health issues associated with drinking on an empty stomach

Tapas, like Flamenco dance has evolved through Spanish history by incorporating traditions influences from many different cultures and countries. The Iberian Penisula was invaded by the Romanswho introduced the of the irrigation methods. The invasion of the North African Moors in the 8th century brought almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices.The influence of their 700-year presence remains today, especially Andalusia.The discovery of the New World brought the introduction of tomatoes,  maize(corn),Chili Peppers, beans,and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily grown in Spain's varying climates.

Classic Spanish-Style Tapas
As Spain is located on the Iberian peninsula and therefore very nearly surrounded by water, seafood and shellfish naturally play a huge part in Spanish gastronomy. A few delicacies of the sea to try are calamares frito(fried squid), cod fritters, Gambas al Ajillio (prawns in hot, garlic oil), and boquerones (anchovies). Moving away from seafood, other typical tapas include chorizo (sausage), Patatas Brava (" Brave" Potatoes), a variety of casserole stews, callos (tripe with chickpeas), jamón serrano (cured ham), albondigas (meatballs) and Tortilla Espanola (Spanish potato omelette).

Modern Spain-Tapas Hopping
Don't be shy about asking what order as most bars will suggest that you try their specialties, which usually happen to be the region's specialties as well. Tapas menus undeniably vary as you move through Spain; the best tapas in central Madrid, for example, are sure to be different from the choice tapas along the northern Galician shores. However, regardless of whether you're relaxing along the Mediterranean or channelling your inner Don Quixote de La Mancha , you are sure to find some common tapas "classics." Unfortunately the days of free tapas are over in much of Spain. Read more about where you can still get free tapas in Spain. If the tapas is given to you without you having asked for it, it will be free.

In conclusion, eating tapas is a sumptuous gastronomical experience that will be different from region to region in Spain. Tapas can be simple finger foods like olives or almonds, canapés or Spanish omelets, cut into squares and served on toothpicks, or deep-fried croquettes. They can also be more elaborate hot, saucy foods served in small earthenware casseroles. Whip up a pitcher of sangria and try a few of these tapas recipes at your next party.

Classic Tapas Recipes

Albondigas ( Meatballs)
Gambas al Ajillio ( Sizzing Garlic Shrimp)
Tortilla Espanola con Aioli ( Spanish Torta with Aioli)
Champiniones al Ajillio ( Mushrooms in Garlic)
Mejillioines Escabechado ( Marinated Mussels)

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