4 September 2009
The Origin of Tapas
The origin of Spanish tapas remains a mystery to this day. In fact nobody really knows hows tapas came to be although there are quite a few theories. One certainty though is the literal meaning of the word itself. "Tapa" ~ literally means "cover" this explains one of the theories that in times gone by bread was placed over the top of a glass to prevent all manner of nasty creatures (inc the horrendous Spanish fly) from landing in your beer, or indeed wine.
Another somewhat far-fetched theory is that it was the Spanish army that invented tapas. Why? to prevent the soldiers from coming home drunk after a night out and subsequently suffering from hangovers the next morning thus reducing their performance... It is indeed very true that in Spain if you go bar hopping it is not as easy as one might think to "get drunk" as you are constantly filling your belly and absorbing the alcohol.
A more believable albeit very old theory is that the Spanish king Alfonso the 10th had become very ill and as a result was only permitted to eat small bites of food and a little red wine throughout the day. Eventually the king recovered from his illness and immediately declared that no inn in Spain was to serve wine unless it was served with a little bite to eat... Royal tapas.
Lastly (from the most plausible) we have the the old campo story. Workers in the fields centuries ago took small meals with them and ate little and often throughout the day - no lunchtime break in those days just regular short breaks in which the workers enjoyed some wine and of course tapas. These small dishes would take the form of olives, cheese, slices of serrano ham or cured sausage (salchichon/chorizo etc)
So which one do you believe is the most likely theory? Or do you have your own...?