Food & Drinks

History - and Legends - of Spanish Tapas

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History - and Legends - of Spanish Tapas
Photo Patrick Ward / CORBIS

A story of wine and bread: legends and myths of the Spanish eating ritual.

There are various legends regarding the origins of what is today considered a Spanish ritual, one that has spread beyond national boundaries and has managed to conquer foodie natives and visitors alike.

Some culinary experts tribute the birth of tapas to an innkeeper who, in order to protect his wine from insects and various impurities, used a temporary cork – a tapa – made from a chunk of bread.

Others cite the Spanish King, Alfonso X, who, it appears for health reasons, was required to eat little snacks accompanied by a few sips of wine at various moments during the day. After witnessing the felicitous results, the ruler decreed that all of the Spanish mesón – or local inns –  serve their wine with small portions of solid food.

Aside from these anecdotes, what began historically as a brief pause between meals to recharge one’s energy for the physical efforts that daily life required, has been transformed over time into a fundamental part of Spain’s culinary heritage and identity – with of course, distinct variations according to regional traditions and recipes.

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