Tapas used to be served as a snack before the main course. Today they are a self-contained part of the Catalonian way of life. In Barcelona you will find lots of tapas bars where you can enjoy a drink and try the different tapas. Eating tapas has evolved to asocial event, just like eating fondue or raclette have. The tapas dishes are eaten in a relaxed atmosphere of a group of people.
While there are typical Catalonian tapas recipes, you will find tapas from all over Spain in Barcelona's many tapas bars..
Origins of Tapas
There are several legends about the origin of tapas. One of them refers to the origin of the word stem "tapa," which literally means lid, and comes from "tapar"(cover). In the Andalusian taverns, the guests used bread or cheese slices as a cover for their sherry glasses to protect the precious contents from flies and other insects. This then supposedly developed into the small appetizers.
Another legend says that in the 13th Century, the Castilian king Alfonso X spent several days in bed in order to recover from an illness. On the advice of his physician, he drank wine and only ate small bites. Because his recovery was so good, the king ordered the innkeepers to always serve some food with wine.
The third theory eventually leads to very practical reasons: In the hot climate usually you don't want to eat something heavy next to your drink, but only something small. That's how tapas evolved, as a small something next to the drink, when you don't want to eat a lot because it's so hot outside.
No one knows which theory is right. There's probably a little bit of truth in all of them ...
Tapas as a way of life
The influence of different cultures on the tapas recipes dates back to Roman times. Later the Moors had a strong impact on Spanish cooking. The tapas culture remains alive to this day, no matter if it's the French Nouvelle Cuisine, which influenced the Basques in the postwar period, or the Japanese culture today with its sushi dishes. Tapas are very international and evolve constantly. The many regional facets always come in addition: a large number of tapas are only available in certain regions with ingredients that are only found there.
Tapas are long since an indispensible part of the Spanish and Catalonian lifestyles. For a long time bars only had one or two tapas on the menu, which today is still traditionally written with chalk on slates. The tapeo, the convivial tour of a tapas bar hopping, soon developed. If you would like to take such a tour of the best tapas bars in Barcelona, you can book a Tapeo with us. Fortunately, hardly anyone gets really drunk – the small snacks and the moving in between bars help in this regard.
The menus have been getting longer over time. An almost logical consequence is that tapas portions have become larger, which are then referred to as raciones. The socializing has become more and more important: The consumption of tapas is a social event; a meeting where you sit for hours together and enjoy the variety of tapas.
Tips for making tapas
You can make a simple tapa if you put a few olives on the table, or cut a good cheese into small cubes and skewer them with toothpicks. Everything that can be served in small bite-sized portions is suitable for tapas - your imagination knows no bounds, there are no fixed rules for what can make up a tapa.
If you only want to serve one or two tapas as appetizers, the tapas preparation is quite simple. Note the specified cooking times and set up the ingredients in advance. Tapas served cold are also ideal as an appetizer: you can prepare them early and then have enough time for the main course.
If you would like to set up a tapas buffet, prepare those tapas that need to be marinated longer the day before. Do all the steps of preparation early on, and prepare the same ingredients for several tapas recipes (e.g. peeling garlic) at the same time. Start with the cold tapas, and take advantage of the time while ingredients are marinating for other preparation.
A tapas buffet with 10 courses or more is a real challenge for the organization of your kitchen. Let us help you - it's easier and more fun!
Some tapas can be bought ready-made. For example, ready-made stuffed olives are very tasty - and you gain time to prepare your other tapas dishes.
Drinks with Tapas
Actually, yes it should be called "Tapas with Drinks", as the original tapas snacks were served at the bar with a drink. However one may see it: a tapas meal fits perfectly with a glass of wine, dry sherry (Fino) - the tapas drink par excellence - or more often a glass of beer. If you prefer a non-alcoholic drink, plain water works best. The Catalans and Spaniards in general prefer non-carbonated water.
In general, the choice of the drink also varies regionally, for example drinking cider is common in the Basque Country, in Catalonia white and rosé wines can often be found next to red wine, in central Spain, red wine is more usual.