The Tapas Tradition

.I have heard a number of accounts of the origin of the tapa. I don't know which one is true,if any of them, so I'm not going to go into that. However, in a local online newsletter the other day, a lady posted quite a harsh criticism of a bar she had visited with friends. She complained that when they asked for tapas they were told that they could not have them outside, only at the bar.
So, for those of you heading down here for a visit, here are a couple of things you should know. Traditionally men would drop into their local bar after the day's work to share a drink or two and a chat with their friends. They would sit or stand at the bar. With their drink they would often be served a morsel of food - a tapa. After a couple of drinks they would head off home to eat.
Occasionally - very occasionally in the days I'm talking about - they would want something more substantial than the tapa. In that case they would sit down at a table and order a 'ración' ( a portion) or a 'media ración' (half portion) of whatever was available. A half portion is about the size of a starter, and a portion is equivalent to a main course.
So the lady was offended by a simple fact of life in a Spanish bar catering mainly for Spanish customers; you eat tapas at the bar and tables are for people who want something more substantial. Foreign owned bars and bars aimed at holiday makers may very well serve you with tapas wherever you sit, the Spanish probably won't.
Something else that is useful to know. If you order a drink and the owner or waiter brings you a tapa without being asked then it will be free. And if he brings you something with every drink, those too will be free. You will pay only for the drinks. Of course you are perfectly entitled to browse the tapas display and ask for whatever takes your fancy, but if you do that you will be charged for your tapas. It's no longer a gesture of hospitality; it's a purchase.
I hope you get to sample lots of tapas standing with the crowd at the bar.

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