SPANISH MEDITERRANEAN DIET - FOODS, RECIPES & BENEFITS
A way of eating based on traditional foods
Whether you call them snacks, appetizers or canapés, people around the world are enamored with the Spanish savories know as tapas and Jamon Ibérico and Spanish cheeses are the kings of tapas. The small snacks are traditionally served with alcoholic beverages and tapas bars have sprung up around the world.
A time honored Spanish tradition, a plate of tapas is often as simple as small slices of Jamon Ibérico accompanied by wedges of Spanish cheese that can be quickly prepared at home or they can be more elaborate gourmet cuisine frequently available at high-end restaurants. Tapas can be served hot or cold.
The legend of the tapa
Tapa is Spanish for lid or cover and two stories exist as to how the snacks originated. One tale says that in the 13th century, Alfonso X, King of Castile and Leon, ordered all the inns of the realm to serve a small bit of food with their drinks for digestive purposes.
Another version indicates Alfonso XIII stopped at an inn for a glass of sherry on a windy day. The innkeeper placed a slice of ham over the top of the glass to prevent sand and debris from blowing into the glass. The novel idea appealed to the king, who ordered another round of sherry and that the drinks come with a tapa.
In some areas, a slice of bread was used. When customers began eating the bread, a small sliver of Iberico ham or one of Spain’s many cheeses was added as a topping. The concept caught on and continues to this day as one of Spain’s most well-known traditions.
The iconic tapa
The debate as to what a true tapa is continues to this day. In Spain, a tapa will vary widely between regions and even among individual towns. The one criterion that chefs and aficionados can agree upon is that a tapa is a small bit of food and the size of the portion defines whether it’s a tapa or not.
Evening meals in Spain are traditionally eaten later than their European counterparts and tapas often provided a small snack to hold diners over until the meal was served. Today, individuals may consume a whole meal made of different types of tapas and tourists can even book tapa tours.
Tapas can range from a combination of meat, cheese, olive and onion on a toothpick to Iberico ham and Spanish cheese served on a plate or a chef-crafted creation of gourmet ingredients. In the tradition of those early innkeepers, tapa ingredients are typically those that are salty to encourage customers to purchase beverages.