Spanish tapas have taken the world by storm over the years, and nowadays, finding a restaurant that sells them is easier than ever. But where did they originate and what are the traditional customs when it comes to enjoying these miniature treats? Let’s find out.
A Brief History
There is a lot of debate when it comes to the origins of this famous cuisine, and many regions in Spain claim to be the birthplace. Despite this, most people agree that it was King Alfonso X who started the iconic tradition. According to one source, during his recovery from an illness, the king was prescribed large quantities of wine (I wish) and began eating small portions of food alongside his frequent drinks to reduce the effects of the alcohol. Who would have known that this would take off and become so popular!
Wherever you travel in Spain, you’ll find yourself introduced to a slightly different custom when it comes to eating tapas. Each region has its own variation, and some disagree as to what constitutes a tapa dish. Generally, the food is served in small portions and is considered a snack or appetiser.
In Spanish culture, evening meals are usually eaten late, at around 9pm. This allows the locals to enjoy some smaller dishes beforehand as a starter. Since the custom is so popular, nowadays a lot of restaurants serve full meals of tapas, and guests are encouraged to order 3-5 small plates to taste and share with friends. If you’re travelling around the country, this is a great way to sample various traditional dishes at once!
Types of Food
There’s all sorts on offer when it comes to tapas dishes. You can enjoy a range of cured meats, olives, fried potatoes, calamari… there’s no end to what you can find on such a small plate! Since the custom has spread internationally, dishes are often made with non-Spanish ingredients – practically anything can now become a tapa.
Wherever you are in Spain, make sure you spend an evening enjoying a few traditional tapas dishes. Although you could try them somewhere closer to home, nothing is better than the real thing.