Pick the countries you’d like to eat your way through and Spain would be in the top five. Like most European countries Spaniards pride themselves on how they eat, the way they eat and especially what they eat. Meals are largely based on simplicity of ingredients, enjoyed with family and friends and a good glass of anything.
As with any larger country with many different traditions and resources, Spanish food can vary greatly from region to region. So as you begin to learn about the food you will also begin to know the cities, the countryside and the people for a truly enjoyable and delicious adventure.
Tapas are probably the best know Spanish “food” but you must realize that the word tapa simply means “lid” and comes from the slices of bread that an innkeeper would place on the top of a person’s wine glass to keep out the flies and dust between sips. It was the Andalucians who thought of placing small bites of food on top of this bread and tapas were born!
Today tapas make for an informal lunch or dinner, the pre-curser to a larger celebration or a fun gathering of friends and good libations. Once you understand the basic ingredients that go into most tapas you’ll understand the music that they make and you can experiment on your own. Never be afraid of trying new combinations or ingredients, as this is half the fun and beauty of eating!
What Goes Into Tapas?
The simplest tapas dishes include combinations of some basic elements so if you are making a list you should always include:
- Serrano ham- a dry cured Spanish ham.
- Spicy chorizo sausage-look for the cured Spanich (not Mexican) variety.
- Olives-look for kalamata, manzanilla, gaeta or provencal are usually easy to find. Then you can learn the varieties that can be found in your area.
- Manchego cheese- a delicious hard cheese from the La Mancha region, made from sheep’s milk.
- Olive oil-choose any extra virgin Spanish olive oil and you can’t go wrong.
- Bread-a good crusty bread of any kind is fine.
- Artichoke hearts-marinated or plain.
- Anchovies-most people think they don’t like anchovies mostly because they’ve only had them on a bad pizza. Some of the best anchovies in the world come from Barcelona but they’re expensive. So if you get the supermarket kind a little soaking first will help the flavor.
- Shrimp-any sizes.
- Salted or plain almonds.
Once you’ve stocked these ingredients you’ll find you have a Spanish pantry just waiting to be eaten!
If you’d like to learn first hand about the cuisines of Spain you’ll find no better opportunity than with Conexus International. We offer educational tours, language immersion and study abroad programs to expand your mind (and your palate). Our instructors and guides delight in showing our students the culture and traditions of Spain and we hope you’ll come along.