Everyone’s undoubtedly heard of Spanish Tapas, especially with Spanish Tapas restaurants popping up across Southampton and pretty much everywhere else! However, how much we understand about Tapas, or appreciate it, is still debateable. With its social and sharing aspect, I believe the Tapas culture is something we should take into our hearts and adopt more and this is why.
There are many different stories about the origins of Tapas. One story claims, King Alfonso X, of Castille in Spain was the creator of Tapas. When he was ill, he could only eat very small dishes with a little wine at a time. This practice of small dishes with wine then later became known as Tapas and spread into popular culture. Other sources say Spanish Tapas started when bars began serving wine with a piece of ham or a little dish of olives on top of a glass of wine to stop the flies getting into their beverage. The word ‘tapa’ also means ‘cover’, hence the reason for the name ‘Tapas’. Customers enjoyed this wine and snack combination so much, that bars continued to exploit this idea. As such, the practice of Tapas was born. No matter the origins of Tapas, it is now certainly a well developed, and well loved, tradition in Spain, and globally.
With the focus on small dishes of food, the importance of simplicity in food is emphasised for me. One dish could just be a piece of parma ham or chorizo, or maybe some fresh tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar, or a few lightly fried potatoes with a hint of garlic to just give them that extra little kick. Of course, the complexity of each Tapas dish varies between restaurants, but with the dishes being so small they rarely tend to be complex. This does not however mean they are not flavoursome, trust me they are! By having smaller dishes, we also have more of an opportunity to appreciate different ingredients for what they are. When we are faced with larger dishes, we can often end up feeling overwhelmed by the quantity of their ingredients, and not have the chance to appreciate the taste of each of the different elements on our plate.
In our society, we are verging into a super-size food culture, and desiring food for their large quantity rather than for their actual quality. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes an extra large pizza is what you need but now and again we need to be reminded and should remember how beautiful and delicate food can be: which Tapas can help us with. As such, Tapas can teach us to love food again, and teach us that food doesn’t need to be big or complicated to be wonderful or appreciated.
Even more importantly, Tapas is wonderful for its sharing aspect. Naturally this doesn’t suit everyone, as to quote one of my friends: “I don’t do sharing when it comes to food,” which I can appreciate. For example, when you allow someone to try a spoonful of your dessert and they then take half of your pudding, you’re not exactly going to be happy.
However, it is wonderful for teaching us to share and making eating a really sociable event. Throughout my life, I have always eaten at the table with my family and really appreciated having this time to spend with them and catch up about all we’ve been up to. For me, this is also what Tapas is about. Tapas is about sharing a moment with people over a glass of wine and a few nibbles, and catching up. By sharing Tapas, you are compelled to talk to each other, whether that’s about the dishes you’ve ordered, or about life in general. Eating tapas makes dining a sharing and sociable experience: a moment to spend with others.
Nowadays, we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. We are even encouraged to think about and to look after ourselves first before others. However if anything the past few weeks have taught us, compassion and community spirit is alive and breathing within Britain. That being said, to adopt things like the Tapas tradition, could change the way we see our relationship with others, encouraging us to be more sharing and sociable in all aspects of our lives. As such, Tapas seems great not only for learning to appreciate food more but also for encouraging people to spend an enjoyable moment together. To make a moment for people over a glass of wine and a few delightful morsels of food certainly makes Tapas seems like a wonderful tradition to me, and one we should all look at adopting soon.