If you’ve been to any Spanish-fusion restaurant in the past 10 years, you probably know what tapas are. Or at least, you think you know what tapas are. The word refers to small plates, a food tradition with origins in Spain. But not those $15 entrees you’ll find in NYC tapas joints. There’s a culture and ritual behind it that totally gets lost on us.
Spend a night in Spain with some locals and you’ll likely be treated to an evening of tapear, which essentially means “going out for some tapas with your friends.” You might call up your friend Antonio who’ll suggest you meet at your favorite neighborhood bar. That’s where the magic begins.
At any bar in Spain if you order a beer (which will only cost you about $2 or $3) or any alcoholic beverage, it is sacrilegious for them not to give you a free tapa. That’s right, FREE food with your very cheap booze. The tapas can be anything from chips to something more elaborate and delicious like a warm, cheesy Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelette) or locally made blood sausage on toasted bread. My favorite ham croquettes are golden brown perfection, crispy on the outside and light and fluffy inside. You and Antonio spend the next few hours meandering the Spanish streets from bar to bar, buzzed with full bellies for little to nothing at all. Tapa virgins are always shocked by tapas culture. And most Americans’ first thought is “but won’t they lose money?!” What Spanish bar owners have known for eons is if you’re full and drunk, you’ll buy more alcohol. Everybody wins!
There’s something about going to tapear in Spain that makes people just plain happy. It’s a guaranteed night of cheap fun and food with no pomp or circumstance. So why hasn’t the full tapas culture made it’s way across the pond? Are we not ready to take the leap from being mere foodies to becoming social eating gods? I certainly am and I hope the rest of you will leap with me.
Justin is a guest writer for Living Remixed. His time spent living and traveling abroad heavily influences the topics he writes about. Justin speaks multiple languages and his multicultural experiences have afforded him unique insight on the direct link between food and culture. Follow Justin Twitter @justjustino and Instagram @justjustino