The Unexpected Origin Of Tapas

Hungry but don't want to indulge in a full-size entrée? Craving a little something more than a light appetizer like tortilla chips and salsa? With tapas, you can get the best of both worlds. Tapas are small plates of hearty, savory, dishes that can either be enjoyed by oneself or shared among multiple people. These snackable meals have evolved into a more sophisticated cuisine since their genesis.

Tapas originated in Spain centuries ago, according to Google Arts & Culture, though their true birthdate and birthplace remain a mystery. As one story goes, during the 13th century, tapas accompanied drinks to help curb inebriation. The Culture Trip explains that different regions of Spain offer their own style of the culinary staple. For instance, tapas are often eaten as a first course before lunch or dinner, but they are also served for free to bar patrons in Granada, Almería, and Jaén as they sip on their drinks.

In any case, tapas can be defined as small portions of food, whether served hot or cold or eaten while sitting or standing. So, why did tapas, the beloved, minimalist fare, actually come to be?

Tapas were invented to cover drinks to ward off flies

If you've ever had a fly or bee buzzing around your beverage, you probably understand how distracting it can be. Well, as the most accepted legend behind modern day tapas states, their intended purpose was to prevent flies and debris from sneaking into drinks, as stated by Google Arts & Culture.

It's been said that King Alfonso XIII — who reigned between 1902 and 1931, according to Britannica — was imbibing on a glass of sherry at a Seville inn when his waiter noticed sand blowing around in the atmosphere. In an attempt to save the king's drink from dirtying, the bartender quickly placed a sausage on top of the glass. Naturally, Alfonso XIII ate the bit of sausage upon finishing his drink. The word "tapas," as it turns out, means "cover" in Spanish, per Allrecipes.

Today, tapas are eaten around the globe and come in a wide range of recipes, from simple bowls of olives or nuts to elaborate medleys of cheeses and meats. The official website of Spain includes calamari, patatas bravas, cured ham, chorizo, and mussels among the most popular tapas. Whether you want to order a drink to wash everything down is completely up to you!