Spain the Iberian Cuisine

By Marcos Cortés Carrasquillo “Chef Carrasco”

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The Spanish cuisine is known as the most versatile, influenced, and most popular gastronomy of the world. In accordance to the Roman, Pliny the Elder, its own name “Spain” owes the origin of its name to an animal, the rabbit. The rabbit was believed to be one of the most important culinary gift of Spain. Many other culinary contributions were brought first, under the Arab rule, and later during the colonization of Hispanic America. It is considered that the entire geopolitical history, the invasion from many other countries in Spain, and specially the Mediterranean shores could speak out in terms of culinary exchange, goods, and dishes. Two main ingredients creates the Spaniard’s unique gastronomy, from the eastern Mediterranean, the olive, and the garbanzo from the east. Many other important ingredients are common in this country, the sea food from the north, the rice from east, roasts of the central region, hams and fries from the south. Each region has its own unique and traditional taste. As a consequence of these vast gastronomical influence we can find a small appetizer called “tapas” which integrates a delectable fusion of food from around all cities of Spain served in small plates of individual items accompanied with drinks. My investigation examines the cultural aspect of this unique component “Tapas” and its role within the Spanish community.

 Spain the Iberian Cuisine

“Tapas”

            Many people call them mezes, antipasti, appetizers, hors d’ oeuvres, or tapas, but these appetizer whether they are called by different names, the most important aspect is that they are the most interesting dishes in all Spain cuisine.  A superb tribute from many centuries of gastronomical influences and history within the Mediterranean coastal. These little dishes are considered a welcoming to any guest a symbol of abundance and hospitality.

            Tapas are brought to the table and set out as part of a large assortment or to be expanded into main courses as a meal on their own. Tapas are characterized for their own texture, we can find many of them in different forms as purée, spread, dips, and by its own ingredient. In Spain, tapas bars are furnished with long counters where these small dishes are laid down filled with an array of appetizers, creating a cultural image of gastronomy that has been characterized today, as part important of the within the Spanish population’s diet.

            (Goldstein, 1994) Each of these bars are distinctly known by its own specialty. People go from place to place tasting individual appetizers along with a zip of a well-chilled glass of fino sherry including a grilled bread rubbed with olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes, tortilla Española, marinated sardines or simply cooked vegetables. There is many theories about how the tapas tradition started in Spain, and the most common is the introduction of small bite of food such as olives, tomatoes or chorizos were placed on plates in order to keep flies out of the bars. The exact moment of the birth of the Tapa is lost in time. The closest estimate of its humble origins would possibly be sometime in the eighteenth century. Where exhaust travelers would disembark from coaches and saddle horses, to be met by impatient proprietors with glasses of wine or sherry covered with a slice of bread. In the Spanish language, this covering referred to as a Tapa, from the verb tapar, ‘to cover.’ This ‘tapa’ kept insects, dust and unsavory debris from settling into the wine and also served to whet the appetite of the hungry travelers.

Tapas today are small, delectable portions of food, served individually, or in groups as a custom designed meal. They can be enjoyed sparingly by the dainty eater and in more abundant assortments for hearty diners. They are traditionally enjoyed with beer, wine, sangria, or the quintessential Spanish drink, Sherry. The enjoyment of tapas is a way of life for the Spanish casual dining in an unhurried atmosphere where conversations flourish spirited and are shared among family, friends and new acquaintances. Today, it is a cultural tradition for people to visit a tapas bar before going to eat the main meal at a restaurant.

            Tapas is considered another separate course within the Spanish diet. It is considered as well another culinary creation which is dedicated solely for small dishes that work exclusively for tapas. Even thought, these small appetizers are not meant to fulfill individual hunger, its gastronomical variety of dishes highlight simplicity and quality of culinary techniques as well as their unique ingredients. Many of the common tapas creation are preserved food items such as the famous jamon pata negra, serrano which is cured ham, olives, or simply delicate cheeses such as manchego. Another famous name for tapas is considered the term “pinchitos” skewered and grilled items, croquetas (breaded and fried thick base béchamel with seasonings), and lastly montaditos which is food placed on slices of bread or crostini. It is important to integrate good and quality products in order to produce superiority tapas. In addition, every region of Spain has its own tapas distinction by adding diversity, and flavor to this great country (Macveigh, 2009).

These tapas bars want to transmit on this wonderful Spanish tradition and offer items from different part of the Mediterranean coastal, and around the world for everybody to sample. The small portion or tapa size allows the people to sample many dishes, possibly many different cuisines from all Spain’s regions, all in one evening. Visitors have the choice of ordering tapas one at a time or all at once. Each dish will arrive at their table as it is completed in the kitchen for their enjoyment, therefore, not all dishes will arrive at the table simultaneously. This is the essence of tapas to experience a multitude of different flavors, textures, and tastes by dinning within a different social environment as well as inviting to an exclusive culinary adventure (Boqueria Restaurant, 2013).       

           

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