A pillar of Spanish culture, tapas are a true symbol of their art of living. Despite some regional varieties, going “de tapeo” with friends (from tapas bar to tapas bar) is a widespread tradition throughout Spain. Here are 5 things you should know about these little culinary delights.
- Their origin is unknown. There are several urban legends that surround their emergence. It is said that the restaurants used to cover the glasses they served with a slice of bread to prevent anything else from falling in (tapa means cover). Little by little they enhanced this slice of bread to appeal to their clientele, until they arrived at the tapas we know today.
- They are free in the province of Granada. Granada is the last province that proudly continues the tradition of a complimentary tapa for every drink. The tapas become more and more sophisticated as the number of orders increases.
- They come in different shapes and forms in different regions. In addition to the traditional tapas, the most spectacular variant is the Basque Pintxo. It consists of mounting the tapa on a slice of bread and piercing it with a skewer (pintxo). This way of “mounting” the tapa into a small work of art is known as “montadito” in the rest of the country. The customers serve themselves and save the used skewers to count up their bill. In the centre of the country, which is very fond of stews, tapas often take the form of small casseroles: “Cazuelitas“.
- Gastronomic tapas. The nouvelle cuisine and molecular cuisine movements have brought Spain immense culinary fame and made it the most represented country in the best 50 restaurants in the world. Visionary chefs such as Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak and Joan Roca have trained and inspired a whole generation of chefs. Their influence can be seen in a new concept of gastronomic tapas to share, called “platillos”. Although their origins are rustic, tapas are very common in Michelin-starred restaurants.
- Tapas festivals. This crown jewel of Spanish popular culture naturally ties in with the other great passion of the Spanish people: street parties. There are numerous tapas festivals all over the peninsula, where the award for the best tapa is given every year. The most famous are those of Valladolid or the Pintxos festivals of San Sebastián and Comillas.
Hungry? Then make sure to check out the new spring edition of KACHEN, where, in collaboration with Johan Tisserand, we have an extensive feature on tapas, including a range of authentic, creative and mouthwatering tapas recipes.