What is Tapas?
Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid). In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire, and sometimes sophisticated, cuisine. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. In some Central American countries, such snacks are known as bocas. In Mexico, similar dishes are called “botanas.”
The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them.Also, in some countries it is customary for diners to stand and move about while eating tapas.
The History of Tapas
The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”.
According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales.The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.
Tapas have evolved through Spanish history by incorporating ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. Most of the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Romans, who introduced the olive and irrigation methods. The invasion of the North African Moors in the 8th century brought almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices. The influence of their 700-year presence remains today, especially in Andalusia. The discovery of the New World brought the introduction of tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers, maize (corn) and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily grown in Spain’s microclimates.
There are many tapas competitions throughout Spain. There is only one National Tapas competition,which is celebrated every year in November. Since 2008, the City of Valladolid and the International School of Culinary Artshave celebrated the International Tapas Competition for Culinary Schools.Various schools from around the world come to Spain annually to compete for the best tapa concept.