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Tapas are small Spanish dishes that are eaten with drinks. They can be found in any Spanish city, but their history originates from Andalusia and Barcelona. Tapas have evolved over the centuries from simple snacks for patrons of bars to become a staple of Spanish culture.

Although tapas have gained popularity throughout Europe in recent decades, their origins are still evident in the very name: tapa means "lid" or "cover" in Spanish, as well as "bar counter". The original meaning of the word relates to how tapas can be placed over a drink to help keep flies from landing in it.

The History of Tapas 1

What is Tapas?

Tapas are a fun way to try new foods because they give you the chance to sample different flavours without committing yourself to an entire meal. It’s a good way for diners to mix and match what they are eating and to share favourite dishes with each other.

Although, ultimately, it’s more a style of cuisine, whereby different restaurants and bars will produce a selection of small dishes dependent on the type of food they serve. Most people, however, associate tapas with Spain and as such the majority of places will produce variations based on authentic Spanish food.

What are the Origins of Tapas?

In the 17th century, tapas came into their own as snacks that bar owners used to distract patrons while they drank (and hopefully bought more drinks). Due to this, they were always meant to be eaten with a drink, and they're usually shared among friends as a social meal. The word tapa is derived from the Spanish verb "tapar," which means "to cover" or "to hide." The oldest definition for this word dates back to 15th-century Spain when it referred to pieces of bread that were placed on top of wine glasses to keep flies out.

These dishes included simple plates of cheese, ham or olives that could easily be consumed by hand while standing up at the bar's countertop. They weren't meant for sitting down at tables or eating with utensils. The idea is that everyone picks at food collectively.

Since the Middle Ages, Spaniards have been eating their meals with small plates of food called tapas instead of using forks and knives. These days, tapas are often served at bars or informal restaurants (called bodegas or tabernas). There are a lot of rumours surrounding the origins, which also include customs started by King Alfonso X The Wise. He ate small portions of food to try and reduce the effects of his alcohol consumption whilst feeling ill.

They're also popular in other European countries like France and Italy, which were inspired by this more relaxed, casual way of dining.

The History of Tapas 2

What Culture do Tapas derive from?

Tapas is grounded predominantly in Spanish culture however the Portuguese also have their own version most commonly known as Petiscos. It’s all about socially dining and drinking with your friends to keep people in bars or restaurants for as long as possible.

Although within Spain, some regions barely serve tapas at all or have their own variations and names for this style of eating. You can’t expect the same thing all over Spain. They are most common in the south of Spain, where you can find the traditional forms of tapas.

What are the most common Tapas dishes?

Some of the most popular tapas are various forms of cured ham, such as jamon serrano and Jamon Iberico—cured ham from the black Iberian pig, which is native to Spain. Jamon serrano is a cured, smoked and sliced pork leg; it's usually served thinly sliced, without skin or fat. Jamón ibérico de bellota (which means "acorn-fed") is made from free-range acorn-fed pigs raised in oak forests in Extremadura and Andalusia. It's prized for its marbling and rich flavour profile.

Other more common types of tapas that you're most likely to try when they visit Spain are patatas bravas (fried potatoes in a sauce), pincho de tortilla (Spanish omelette) or calamari all accompanied by plenty of olives and cheeses.

What countries can Tapas be found in?

Tapas can be found in any city throughout Spain and have become a staple in many parts of Europe such as Portugal and France. Even in the UK, many restaurants now opt for a tapas-style approach to other cuisines such as Thai and Italian.

Dishes are typically served with wine, beer or sangria, but can also be ordered with other alcoholic beverages dependent on the country. Although the food is often ordered separately so people can share their plates while enjoying their drinks together.

The History of Tapas 3

The evolution of Tapas

Over the centuries, tapas menus have expanded to include thousands of different options. You can find tapas on the menus of restaurants around the world. In Spain, you'll see national dishes such as tortilla de patatas and solomillo al whisky alongside regional favourites such as gazpacho or salmorejo, while in Latin America you'll find tacos, empanadas and churros—but there are plenty more tapas that span the globe.

In the late 1990s, these small plates became popular with all types of diners and expanded beyond the bar scene. The concept of tapas was adopted by many restaurants, bars and clubs in New York, USA, including Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village.

The idea of tasting or sampling many different types of foods really took off. The majority of people who like tapas now often do so as part of a party or gathering. Tapas are often served along with wine or beer at bars and restaurants globally that cater to patrons looking for smaller portions than those served in traditional sit-down meals. Tapas are now a staple of Spanish cuisine and can be found all over the world.

They have evolved from simple snacks to more complex dishes, that have become popular with diners at restaurants, bars and even home kitchens.

Experience the taste of authentic Tapas

Come join us and experience proper authentic tapas in Spain’s main cities. tabl. can help you to discover all the food and drink Spain has to offer. Book one of our food and drink experiences online today!

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