Introduction to Tapas

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The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar,
“to cover”.

According to legend, the tapas tradition began when
Castile's king, Alfonso X of Castile or Alfonso the Wise,
recovered from an illness by drinking wine mixed with
small dishes between meals. After regaining his health,
the king ordered that taverns were not allowed to serve
wine to customers unless the beverage was accompanied
by a small snack or tapa. The word became a kind of
loophole in the law to allow drinkers to consume alcohol.

According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were
the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in
Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between
sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit
flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used
to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which
are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this,
bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a
variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing
their alcohol sales.[1] The tapas eventually became as
important as the sherry.

Tapas evolved over Spain's history through the
incorporation of ingredients and influences from many
different cultures and countries. Most of the Iberian
Peninsula was invaded by the Romans, who introduced
the olive and irrigation methods. The invasion of the North
African Moors in the 8th century brought almonds, citrus
fruits and fragrant spices. The influence of their 700-
year presence remains today, especially in Andalusia.
The discovery of the New World brought the introduction
of tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers, maize (corn), beans
and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily
grown in Spain's microclimates.