“I didn’t order this,” Kay said to me, “but it’s delicious.” She had her fork in a small dish of chick pea stew. It came with the Estrella de Galicia beer she ordered at the end of a day’s walking on the Camino de Santiago.
When you order a drink in a Spanish bar you are invariably given something to eat with it: a tapa. It’s an extra. You don’t pay for it. And it’s part of a culture where drinking without eating is what the English and Germans do: frankly barbarian.
Tapa means cover. Some say the original tapa was a piece of ham laid over your wine glass. When the Inquisition was at its height this showed you were neither Jew nor Muslim.
There are varieties of tapa: a piece of Spanish omelette, ham on bread, mussels, small plates of peas or stewed meat. And if you order a coffee you might get a piece of cake, a biscuit or a little chocolate.
One step up from the tapa is the pincho- pintxo in the Basque Country, where it is a culinary art form. This is a larger, more elaborate mouthful, often held together with a cocktail stick. For a nominal price you can have a little taste explosion with a cracking glass of wine.
The civilised way to spend an evening in Spain is take the evening paseo, or stroll, stopping off along the way to greet friends and share a drink: ir de tapeo. My favourite places to visit the tapas bars are Triana and San Sebastián. San Sebastián I love for the quality of the food. I love Triana, on the south bank of the river Guadalquivir in Seville, for the romance and atmosphere.
Where ever you have a tapa, you are sure to say “Delicious!”