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What are Tapas?

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Tapas are snacks, canapés or finger food. Tapas come in many different forms and can vary from town to town! But, what are they? They can be practically anything from a chunk of tuna, cocktail onion and an olive skewered on a long toothpick to meat with sauce served piping hot in a miniature clay dish. They are served day in and day out in every bar and café in Spain. So much a part of the culture and social scene that the Spanish people invented the verb tapear which means to go and eat tapas!

In most regions, you must order and pay for a ración or serving, but in the province of Granada, one tapa is complimentary with each round of drinks ordered. Tapas keep the Spanish fueled for their long journeys from bar to bar before their mid-day meal and in the evening before dinner.

The Origin of Tapas

There are several stories about the origin of tapas, which are a part of the folklore:

It is told that King Alfonso X, el Sabio or “the Wise One,” made sure that Castilian taverns serve wine accompanied by something to eat, so that the wine would not go straight to the clients' heads.

Another story claims that while on a long trip, King Alfonso had stopped to rest in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and he ordered a glass of jerez or sherry. There was a gusty wind, so the inn keeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the sherry from getting dirty. King Alfonso apparently liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or “cover” just like the first.

Whatever the true origin of tapas, prepare one or several, then enjoy them like the Spanish do – with a glass of wine and a relaxed attitude. ¡Ah! Divino… or Divine…

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