Going out for tapas is something seen daily in Spain. Locals and tourists alike find themselves munching on this Spanish delicacy. Whether you’re on a short vacation, or studying abroad, it’s crucial to understand why everyone loves tapas. But the thing is, what the hell are they? Brush up on your español, because we’re about to go on a super short, and completely imaginary trip to Spain.
Tapas are finger food (pretty much).
Tapas could be anything. It could be paella (a Valencian rice dish), croquettes (bomb-ass mozzarella sticks), or ham and cheese on toast (you probably know what that is). A personal favorite of mine is grilled padrón peppers.
No one is really sure how they originated.
The Spaniard’s most popular theory is that when King Alphonso the Tenth ruled, he had to have little bites of cheese, bread, and ham with his wine between sips to keep his strength. Once he discovered that his hangovers lessened in the morning, he ruled that alcohol must be served with something to eat to prevent the wine from going straight to your head (supposedly).
The word “tapa” literally translates to “lid.”
Though there is reason to believe that King Alphonso required you to eat some food with your wine to prevent hangovers, the locals found another use for their beloved tapas. Often, the food would be set on top of their wine glass to keep bugs from flying in. How resourceful.
Tapas are not “starters.”
No sir, they are not. You start with tapas, you end with tapas. Most people snack on anywhere from 3 to 4 tapas, depending on how many bars you go to.
They are always served with alcohol.
Wine, Sangria, you name it — you drink it with tapas. And the drinking age in Spain is 18, kids. But you didn’t hear that from me.
They are eaten as a snack, or just to tide you over until your next meal.
The Spanish are notorious for their late meals (we’re talking 9, 10 o’clock). Tapas are eaten around, 5 o’clock-ish to make sure that you can make it until dinner time without getting grumpy.
Spanish linguists literally invented a verb for it because they eat tapas so much.
You read correctly, Spanish majors and minors. “Tapear” literally means “to go and eat tapas.” Try to integrate this one into your español convos. ¡Yo quiero tapear!
Some bars will give you free tapas.
Spain is notorious for their free tapas. Most other cities will charge you for your tapas. If you’re not lucky enough to be in the city of free tapas and feeling gutsy, ask your server, “¿tienes alguna tapa?” which means, “have you got any tapas?” If they nod and go get you food, congrats. You just scored some free tapas. If not, they’ll probably list off all the choices that you have to pay for. Bummer.