In the South of Spain, it is custom to serve free little snack size meals with any drink purchased... drink after drink, you should still be getting a little plate of food. Some places in Madrid still have this traditional hospitality too, but most often you receive a bowl of potato chips, or olives or something. (not that I'm complaining! It's going to suck going back to America and not getting anything with the beer I order, having to pay more for the beer, and then have to tip the guy or gal who gives it to me!) Why does Spain do this? Well, i'm not sure. But this is what wikipedia says:
According to legend, the tapas tradition began when king Alfonso X of Castile recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that taverns would not be allowed to serve wine to customers unless it was accompanied by a small snack or "tapa."
According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.
Andulusia (South) Spain, Tapas are renown for being the best, and I agree. Here's a list of some of the tapas I enjoyed for free with my drinks during my time in hospitable Andulusia...
- smoked bacon on a toasted baguette slice with french fries
- fried crab lumps
- tuna with oriental flavored red peppers on toasted baguette slice with lettuce and oil
- pasta chicken enchilada thing with tomato cream sauce
olives olives olives
spanish tortilla (eggs and potatoes cooked Spanish style)
little bagel like things w aoli (garlic mayo) and jamon (ham)
cheese w olive oil and bread
potatas pobre (sauteed potatoes and onions and pepers and sausage, with an egg on top)
chicken drums litely fried
the list continues... but that is all I can remember for the time being, and it proves my point on how AWESOME free tapas are.
There is only one bar out of my entire time in Andulusia that did not give SOME sort of tapas... and that was a strange experience. It was in Lanjaron. After a day of work at Casa del Viento, Bill, Fionna, Mark, and I went out to the town for a couple of drinks and a change of scene. WE decided to go to a bar that none of us had been to before. We went in, ordered two tinto de veranos (wine and lemonade) and two canas (small glasses of beer). As our bartender served us, he did not smile once. He did not respond to my pleasantries in spanish, asking good afternoon, how his day was going, but rather completely ignored me. Mark thought his beer tasted of cleaning fluid (and it did), so he tried to explain that to the bartender in Spanish, and got a new one. We sat outside after collecting our drinks... waited for tapas to come. Nothing did. Not even a small bowl of olives. That is strange for Lanjaron, for Andulusia! The bartender, meanwhile, had come back outside, and sat down and started a reading book called “te matare” (I will kill you...) After we were done with our drinks, (and had fully agreed not to come to this bar again) we went inside to pay. The man charged us for Marks originally cleaner fluid beer. I began to explain to him the problem was, and he let go in a quick spanish rant. I understood about half of it. His angry face explained the rest. I told him, in spanish, “well, we won't come back to this place again” he said “muy bien!” (very good!) So, we payed. All of it. And left. It was about 6pm.. siesta time, sort of, meaning things aren't exactly open at that time, so that might have been sort of the problem, but that does not account for the rudeness of this too proud, foreigner disliking bartender.
But I must say that this bartender is a freak exception. Most always the service people in Spain are super friendly! Especially if you try to speak a little Spanish to them.