What is tapas?

Sunday evening, I was attending the Dining out Meetup in Haarlem, with a wonderful group of people. We were at Rio Negro restaurant in Kleine Houstraat which is a Spanish restaurant. One of the ladies, also new in the group, did not know what was tapas! I found it weird at the beginning, but then I realized that even if Spanish cuisine went more popular in the past 10 years, there is still people who do not have a clue of what is Spanish tapas
Starting to think about this, I also find that it would be perhaps helpful to have a small guide of the main tapas and sort of food you can find in my loving country!
So here my small survival guide about Spanish cuisine!

Let's first explain what is a tapa and the sort of tapas you can find in Spain and Spanish restaurant worldwide.
Tapas: a "tapa" in Spanish means "cover". It gives the name to  small portion of food that you are served everywhere in Spain as aperitif or dinner in bars and restaurants.
Why did Spaniards called it like this?
Let me tell you the small story about it,... there is several versions of course, and it is more a myth than a real story, but it explains quite well the system!

A long, long time ago,... once upon a time,...
In a tavern, in the south of Spain, where the diligence were stopping, people were complaining because the flies were going into their wine glass. The taverner had an idea to avoid the flies to dive into the glasses by covering the glass with a piece of bread. The "tapa" was born! Started only with a piece of bread on the top of glass of wine! Then people started to add something more on top of the bread to make it more flavorful,... cheese, ham, sausage,... the idea spread in the whole country is nowadays one of the strongest cuisine in the world!

A tapa or tapas (if there is more than 1) is like mini portion of a dish that you will eat with a drink. It is served in 1 plate and shared with your friends or family. So you can imagine that it can be any kind of food: salad, stew, paella, meat, sausages, vegetables, etc... you eat directly from the dish,.... no individual plates!

In Spain, people are used to go bar hopping (ir de tapas), like having appetizers before dinner or lunch, or you can just have your dinner enjoying a lot of tapas!

In the tapas, there is several kind that you may find on the bar menus!

Canapé: this is the French word for a small slice of bread with something on the top: cheese, ham, spreads,...

Ración: this is a big tapa served when you are a lot of people. It is like a main course in a restaurant.

Pincho/pintxo: this one comes from the Basque Country in the North of Spain. It is like a canapé but with a toothpick in the middle that will keep everything together on the top of the bread.

Tabla: it is a platter of dry meats (Serrano ham, lomo, chorizo), cheeses (Manchego, Idiazabal, Cabrales) or pates. You will find several kind on the platter and you just share it.

Every bar, every region in Spain has its specialties in tapas,... from Catalunya with the pan amb tumaca, to Andalusia with the fried fish and Madrid with some callos,... or pulpo in Galicia.

Some typical dishes are often found in tapas bars, like tortilla, which is a potatoes omelette, or  sangría which a red wine cocktail with fruits.... you will find more recipes and Spanish restaurants here!

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