The Spanish Language Blog

In Dutch we call them appetizers and they are eaten on birthdays or when there are visitors. In Spain, appetizers are nothing special. In fact, it is part of the Spanish way of life! Spanish tapas are not eaten on an occasion but as a snack. From slices of chorizo to whole works of art, but tapas are tapas and the Spanish cannot live without them.

  • Tapas have not always been as elaborate as they are today. In fact, it all started very simply with olives, bread or chorizo. It was only later, when different cultures came into contact with each other, that tapas were influenced and more ingredients and thus more variety appeared.
  • The fact that Spaniards eat tapas makes sense in principle; they have a lot of time between meals when there is no eating and then tapas is a good substitute.
  • There are countless recipes for the tastiest tapas. It is therefore not for nothing that there are many websites with tips and explanations for making tapas. In addition, each region in Spain has its own specialties.

As mentioned earlier, it started very simply with bread, olives and chorizo. That tapas are now so vastly expanded is because of the influence the Romans, Arabs and Columbus had on it. The Romans discovered olive oil, which gave them the means to preserve meat while adding flavor to various products. The Arabs brought nuts and spices, but the best was what Columbus brought with him: vegetables. Tapas often used to be free. It was a snack you got with your glass of sherry. The sherry drinkers of Andalusia, for example, got a slice of chorizo with their sherry. The saucer with the snack was placed on top of the drink to cover it to keep out flies and other critters. To cover is 'tapar' in Spanish, hence the word tapas. When the bars realized that when they gave the sherry drinkers tapas they drank more (because of the salt content of the tapas), the bars developed several types of tapas to offer with the sherry and other drinks so that sales of the drink increased.

“Ir de tapas”

Spaniards are known as late eaters. People dine between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. and sometimes not even until midnight. This means that there is a lot of time between lunch and dinner. A good solution to this is tapas. In Spanish, it is called ir de tapas: consuming snacks in a bar and taking time for friends or family. It is part of the social life of Spaniards. A bar that serves tapas has about 8 to 12 kinds of tapas that are visibly kept under glass heat showcases that make the tapas look scrumptious. Almost all of them contain garlic, peppers or paprika, salt and pepper. In addition to the vegetable and meat tapas, mariscos (seafood) are also very popular; fish such as anchovies, sardines, marbel or squid are often used to make delicious tapas. In northern Spain and some other areas such as Salamanca, tapas are also called pinchos (Basque: pintxos).A pincho is a small skewer and is inserted into the snack to hold the creation together and to keep track of the number of tapas a customer has had in a bar. The average price for one tapa is about 1 to 2 euros, depending on where you consume the tapa. Yet these days tapas are not just appetizers; they can be made into half dishes or meals. That's why on restaurant menus you often see raciones (tapas meals). It is a larger portion of appetizers.

There are countless tapas recipes with different ingredients and variations so there is a bite for everyone. In Spain, each region has its own specialty. For example, the coastal provinces specialize in seafood and the bars and restaurants in inland Spain make amazing creations with mostly meat and vegetables.

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