Let’s talk tapas…

On a hot summer’s day in Southern Spain, why not combine two of life’s simple pleasures, by treating yourself to an ice cold glass of beer and a tempting tapas.

Andalucia is one of the few remaining areas in Spain still serving tapas on the house – which is as close as you’re going to get to a free lunch!

Granada province is the heart of the free tapas region and stretches down to the Mediterranean and the city of Motril, then along the coast towards Malaga. This diverse, mountainous and fabulously sunny region was made famous by Chris Stewart in his book ‘Driving Over Lemons’.

The name ‘tapa’, originates from the word tapar – to cover. Speculations on the origin of tapas range from the practical to the mythological. A popular theory is that when the 13th-century King Alfonso fell ill, he ordered small bites of food with wine to aid a speedy recovery. After discovering the benefits of snacking, he is said to have decreed it law that all bars begin to serve food with alcohol.

Move forward a few centuries and another great monarch, King Felipe II, passed a royal decree ordering all tavern keepers to accompany each glass of wine with a tapa – a round slice of sausage served on top of the glass like a lid – to reduce public drunkenness. To this day it’s the reason why one rarely sees a drunk Spaniard, even though they drink virtually around the clock – the tapas soak up the booze!

These days, tapas are still seen as a freebie of the house, and many bars take more pride in their range of tapas than their selection of drinks. The most simple and delicious of tapas – a slice of crusty bread topped with mature Manchego and a sliver of local jamon, is a taste sensation!

Tapas are rustic and generally hearty – a favourite  of mine is patatas a la pobre, (potatoes fried with onions and green peppers) topped with a quail’s egg, if you’re lucky. Any aspirations of healthy eating should be left firmly at home, as calories are definitely not counted!

Part of the holiday fun is to find the bars that serve your favourite tapas and then order a larger dish, or ración  (you’ll pay for this one) of it, plus a big mixed salad and a chunk of artisan bread… You’ll have a great meal and, if you can muster a few words of Spanish, make friends with the locals!

Here’s a little advice when it comes to ordering – A caña is a small beer and a tubo is a big one. If you’re feeling hungry and your main aim is to get the most free food possible, order the SMALL beer! The tapas is the same size regardless of the drink, so with a caña you’re getting a higher food to drink ratio – winner…

Tapas are generally offered, but if you’re heading towards Malaga, you may not get one with your drink, so I’d recommend cheekily asking the question ‘¿tienes alguna tapa?‘ (have you got any tapas?) the bar man will be so impressed with you, that you might just get a freebie for your effort.

We think you’ll see why… you’ll love Southern Spain!

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