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    Spanish Tapas - Part I

    The Spanish tapa, a snack served for free, with a drink in a lot of Spanish bars, has become one of the main signs of the Spanish identity in the last few years. Even outside of Spain, thanks to internationally renowned Spanish chefs like Ferran Adria¡, many foreigners want to try this way of eating when they visit Spain.

    Having only tapas for lunch or dinner has became such a popular habit in Spain, that the Spanish language has included new words to express it, for example: 'tapeo' (the act of eating tapas), ir de tapas (go bar hopping for eating tapas) or the new Spanish verb 'tapear' (to eat nothing but tapas), even picked up by the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy. This way of eating only small snacks at different bars, usually takes place when there are more friends together. Because, besides eating, tapas is an act to socialize: one of the best ways to talk, laugh and have fun with friends or family!

    Where does the word 'tapa' come from?

    The original meaning of 'tapa' is a cover or a lid in Spanish. The origin of the word comes from the custom of placing a slice of bread or meat on the top of the glass to prevent flies or dust from getting into the ordered drink.

    How many different 'tapas' are there?

    There are many varieties and the tapas selection of the bar depends on the region where you are. According to the region, you might be served with 'tapas calientes' (hot 'tapas') like croquettes, Spanish omelette or albóndigas (meatballs with sauce), etc in some areas in the interior of Spain like Ávila, Segovia o Cáceres.There are also 'tapas frí­as' like olives, chips or 'pulgas' (a small slice of bread with meat like chorizo or jam) in areas like Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza. As you approach the coast, the offered tapas consist of seafood and fish like anchovies served in vinegar, 'pulpo a la gallega' (Galician-style octopus) in the north of Spain or 'gambas al ajillo' (prawns with garlic).

    How big are Spanish 'tapas'?

    The size of the snack is usually not more than 2 or 3 bites and it is served automatically with the ordered drink. Habitually the client cannot choose the appetizer. Most of the Spanish bars and taverns are specialized in a certain 'tapa' and it is served with all drinks.

    Are 'tapa' and 'pintxo' the same thing?

    No, they are not the same. The 'pintxo' can be found especially in northern Spain in the provinces of Navarre, Cantabria, La Rioja and the Basque Country. Pintxo is a slice of bread with food on, with a toothpick through it. The customer can choose among various kinds of pintxos at the counter of the bar, and must pay for them accordingly. The price varies from one to two euros on average.

    For part two of our in-depth tapas guide, please click here.

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