Tapas: small Spanish savoury dishes , typically served with drinks at a bar. Origin: Spanish tapa, literally ‘cover, lid’ (because the dishes were given free with the drink, served on a dish balanced on, therefore ‘covering’, the glass).
I would correct this definition from Oxforddictionaries.com with the present tense, “are.” Well, in part. The tradition of free tapas only remains in the province of Granada, and they don’t balance the tapa on top of the drink anymore, thankfully if you ask me. You may have had tapas in America, possibly at a Tapas Bar, there’s a good one in Indianapolis I believe. You also might have told someone about such a tapas bar, only to have them stare at you and quietly ask “a topless bar?” Clearly you have no such problem here in Granada.
A little while ago I began some independent searching on Calle Navas, which I have heard is the most famous street for bars in Spain. On Navas you reach a new bar every 4-8 steps, it’s that full of bars. Usually you can get a nice beer or wine for 1.70-3 euros and then, depending on the bar, you get anything from a small serving of Jamón Serrano to whole plate full of Mariscos (seafood, usually clams and the like). Not being a red meat eater and being a little skiddish of clams (although fish are amazing here) I have been a big fan of Patatas a Lo Pobre, which I heartily enjoyed at Bar La Abadía. Athough the bartender was in need of a shower, he was nice enough and left me in peace as I sat outside and reviewed for midterms. What’s great (although sometimes problematic) about Spain is that no one cares how long you stay at their bar or cafe. They won’t even pester you by asking if you want another drink. The problem side is payment, sometimes you have to pretend like you’re leaving in order to get a check. Of course, that can also be quite funny. I really enjoy the relaxed manner of tapas though, sitting uninterrupted for one hour to study over good food and a beer for only 1.70 euro was just what I needed.
Although the origin is disputed, authors hold that The tapas tradition began in the XIII century when King Alfonso X the wise (el sabio) got sick and his doctor advised him to eat small bites of food with sips of wine throughout the day. When the king recovered, he mandated that nowhere in Castilla would wine be served with out a bit of food. Tradition has it that this helped the people avoid alcoholism and provided more food for those that didn´t have much money for protein rich foods. Because the tapa was balanced over the drink, it also prevented flies or other distasteful things from getting into the drink.
So, there you have it. ¡Vamos de tapas! (Let’s go out for tapas!)