& COOKING ARTICLE
really knows the true origin of tapas although there
are many theories and historical figures involved around
various stories, the origin of Spanish tapas remains
a mystery to this day and it can be left to the individual
as to which theory they find the most plausible.
first thing to recognize is that three kings are involved
in the whole tapas theory, not the "Los Reyes Magos"
on January 6th where the kings deliver presents to the
children but another three kings of old namely, King
Alfonso X, King Alfonso XII and King Felipe III. One
of the more popular origins lies with King Alfonso X
who reigned over Castille in the Thirteenth century.
It is said that the king had become very ill and as
a result was only permitted to eat small bites of food
and a little red wine throughout the day. Eventually
the king recovered from his illness and immediately
declared that no inn in Spain was to serve wine unless
it was served with a little bite to eat.
is certainly truth in the fact that small bites of food
served with every glass of wine or glass of beer absorbs
alcohol. This appears to have been recognized by king
Felipe the third who, over time noticed that the work
rate and performance of his subjects was suffering due
to the fact that they were inebriated after consuming
generous rations of alcoholic beverages. The kings'
problem became particularly prominent during the winter
months when more wine was consumed to "warm up".
Tackling what must have been a rather annoying issue
the king began to order small plates of food such as
bread and cured ham to help absorb the wine thus increasing
the work rate of his subjects.
Alfonso the twelfth also had a practical solution to
a problem which occurred whilst on route through Cadiz
in Andalucia. The province of Cadiz lies near the southern
Andalucian coast and as such is quite windy. The story
goes that king Alfonso had stopped outside a tavern
and was given a goblet of wine from the tavern owner
along with a slice of bread and cured ham, because the
wind was blowing up the sand the king placed the bread
and ham on top of his goblet to prevent the sand from
spoiling his wine. Upon ordering again the king then
asked for another "tapa" to cover his wine.
~ to cover
somewhat far-fetched theory with the same thinking as
king Felipe is that it was the Spanish army that invented
tapas. Why? To prevent the soldiers from coming home
drunk after a night out and subsequently suffering from
hangovers the next morning thus reducing their performance
. . . It is indeed very true that in Spain if you go
bar hopping it is not as easy as one might think to
"get drunk" as you are constantly filling
your belly and absorbing the alcohol.
we have the old story from workers in the campo (farm
workers). It is said that working in the fields after
a large meal at lunchtime was near impossible so farm
workers took small portions of food that they would
eat throughout the day thus not working on a heavy stomach.
There were no lunchtime break in those days just regular
short breaks in which the workers enjoyed some wine
and of course tapas. These small dishes would take the
form of olives, cheese, slices of serrano ham or cured
is a more practical theory of course and that is that
in days gone by the goblet of wine or beer was "covered"
to prevent natures most annoying invention - the Spanish
fruit fly from landing in what was at the time a valuable
and savoured beverage. No matter which legend or theory
you believe is the most plausible one thing is true
and that is tapas are still very much alive in the Granada
region of Spain. A small plate of food to accompany
your glass of wine of beer which can range from a simple
plate of salted almonds, Serrano ham on bread to a serving
of paella or garlic prawns. True Spanish tapas are free,
gratis, no charge and will, in most cases follow your
beer or glass of wine. The region of Granada is one
of the only remaining parts of Spain where tapas are
served free with your drink.
recently with the advent of the celebrity chef, cooking
programs and "tapas bars" the legend has become
somewhat of a business. There is of course nothing wrong
with that but with tapas becoming more and more elaborate,
larger and expensive one can truly appreciate the old
Andalucian culture of tapas when enjoying a lazy afternoon
outside a bar in Granada or Seville. Tapas are also
a social event, in fact Spaniards do not tend to have
tapas in their own homes, tapas are, all about friends
and gathering socially to enjoy a drink or two and have
a bite to eat.
never know what tapas you will receive, you can order
tapas in many bars throughout the Granada region but
waiting to see what you get with your first beer adds
that little bit of excitement to the afternoon, it is
purely up the bars discretion whether you get tapas
at all or indeed what kind. Weekends are a favourite
time for tapas as this is when the bars come alive,
in many places you can admire the bain marie's behind
the hot counter brimming full of clams in tomato salsa,
paella and a whole range of speciality dishes conjured
up by the resident chef or "cocinero". In
rural bars (and all over Andalucia) "jamon"
is a firm favourite, an economical way of serving delicious
finger food, more often than not the barman will seemingly
disappear to the other end of the bar, give a his knife
a quick sharpen and carve off a few slices of ham before
putting it on a plate and placing it conveniently next
to your glass.
tapas: The village of Orce pronounced (or-thay) is your
typical white washed village high up in the Altiplano
in Granada province. Orce also boasts seven bars which,
for a small "pueblo blanco" with a population
of only 1200 is quite a few! Using Orce as a typical
example of an Andalucian village here is a short list
of some of the more delicious weekend tapas which you
may (or may not) expect upon visiting a rural village
bar in Andalucia.
ham and almonds
Bravas (Potatoes in brava sauce)
Tortilla (Spanish omelette)
al pil pil (chili garlic prawns)
chorizo in red wine
we have to thank a Spanish King from centuries ago,
the army or farm labourers tapas have become embedded
in Andalucian culture and are still available in bars
today throughout Granada, a tradition that is enjoyed
by Spaniards and tourists alike every day.
we suggest . . . ?
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