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Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers which are mainly prepared with squid, anchovies, sardines or mackerel, mixed olives, and cheese. Variants of tapas are present because of the differences in the taste and includes various types of olives, animal-derived products such as meat, egg, fish and agricultural products such as vegetables. Tapas are often served cold or hot as an accompaniment to wine, or cold tomato soup as protection against cold or hot days.

Tapas is the word used for referring large group of snacks and appetizers in Spain. They may be cold, warm, or variously flavored depending on the taste preferences. These snacks are mostly considered as socializing snacks but in some regions of Spain, UK, and North America, they have evolved as full fledged dishes. In certain areas of Spain tapas are combined with meal. These genre of snacks are mostly sized small but in some places their proportions and size may increase which is normally feasible if the snacks are ordered by large group of people.

In Central American countries these snacks are usually known as bocas. It is believed tapas are normally designed for encouraging friendly conversations and they should be enjoyed with leisurely pace. In some places across Spain the tapas are also known as banderillas (which is a reference to flag) some of the snacks may look like colorful spears used in bullfighting.

The word tapas originated from Spanish word “tapar” which means to cover. There are several explanations as why this particular word became associated with this genre of snacks.

· The flatcard was used to cover the drinks from attracting fruit flies or other type of flies. Some food experts say that the tapas evolved in Cadiz area. As per the legend once king Alfonso XIII stopped at a tavern and ordered a cup of wine. To avoid contamination from sands the waiter chose to cover the wine cup with piece of ham. The king reportedly ordered more wine covered with ham. And this spearheaded a trend of covered wines.

· At most of the Spanish taverns the drinks were mostly enjoyed by standing and so to avoid contamination one or the other kind of dish or to say bread was used to cover the drinks.

· Some food experts believe that tapar may refer to a particular technique adopted by tavern owners based in Castilla- La Mancha during 16th century. These tavern owners used to serve bad wine with mature cheese because the aroma of cheese helped to mask the foul smell of the rotten wine.

Origin of Tapas

According to a popular legend the tapas tradition was started by king Alfonso X of Castile as mark for respect for small snacks, which he believed have contributed in his fast recovery from a serious ailment. After his recovery the king ordered the taverns across the state to serve the alcohol with small snacks.

Some food websites suggest that the tapas refers to slices of bread or meat which were used by the drinkers in Andalusian region to cover their drinks (sherry) between the sips. This practice was usually follwed to save their drinks by adulterating due to flies, or other external agents. Normally the salty meat like chorizo or ham was used for covering the sherry and they also triggered the thirst. Taking cue from this idea the taverns across andalusian region started serving small snacks tapas along with Sherries. Slowly these small snacks gained equal prominence as the sherries.

Actually there are no basic tapas recipes, instead it is a sort of thing which evolved over the years. Influences of various food cultures can be noticed on the tapas because they are prepared using various ingredients.

The olives are commonly found in the tapas recipes around Iberian peninsula because the region was under the influence of Roman empire. The Romans introduced olives and irrigation in this area. Following some of the popular tapas recipes popular in Andulsia it can be observed that fragrant spices, almonds and citrus fruits, are also used in the preparation of tapas because these things were introduced to the region by North African Moors who ruled the area for more than 700 years. The vegetables like tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers were introduced to the region by New World explorers.

Popular Tapas Recipes

· Tortilla de Patatas: This is one of the popular tapas recipes popular in Spain. This particular snack looks like omelet and is prepared by combining fried onions, potatoes and sometimes the chorizos.

· Rajo: This is also one of the famous tapas recipes where the snack is prepared by seasoning pork with parsley and garlic. The snack is seasoned using paprika.

· Pincho Maruno: This is one of the most favored tapas recipes, where the snack is prepared by searing the pork pieces with herb and spice mix. The word pincho maruno translates to Moorish Spike.

· Pulpo: This is an favorable variation of tapas recipes . Here the pulpo is prepared by using octopus and is usually served in the oil used for preparation. This kind of snack is mostly enjoyed in Galicia because the region is known for its sea resources.

· Empanadas: These are one of the most popular tapas recipes which is normally tried across the world. These snacks are mostly prepared in the form of dumplings which are stuffed with various kinds of fruits, vegetables and meats.

· Calamares: This popular tapas recipes suggest that calamares is prepared by dipping the squid rings in batter prepared using various ingredients.

Miscellaneous Facts About Tapas

· Tapas are normally enjoyed during the time between work and dinner.

· Most of the restaurants across Spain store about 10-12 types of tapas adhering to the taste preferences of all age groups. Normally the strongly flavored and seafood topped snacks are prefered over the milder ones.

· The sauce based tapas are often teamed with various types of bread.

· In Some parts of Spain these tapas are offered free along with drinks. In some of the bars there are some tapas specific areas.

The toothpicks are pierced through tapas to hold together various ingredients but they are also used by the waiters to keep track on the number of tapas tasted by the customers.