The mystery of tapas

The fame of tapas is now worldwide; you can eat tapas from Alaska to Oz.  Yet their origins are surprisingly mysterious; men with claims to the invention range from royalty to peasantry.  What we do know is the tapas were invented by one of three men.  The question is: was it the wise king, the hardy farmer or the crafty innkeeper?   

First, King Alfonso the Wise

When recovering from an illness, King Alfonso 10th was advised to eat small bites with wine between meals to build up his strength.  Once better, he wrote his new diet into law, making it illegal to serve wine without a free snack.  This legendary decision was based on the fact that A) It sobered up drunken sailors and B) Free food is the best.  In fact, this is technically still true today; a genuine Spanish tapa is free.

Next up: the hardy farmer

Having a hefty, fatty lunch had a tendency to knock out farmworkers for a lengthy siesta come the afternoon.  So one day, whilst staring round at his snoozing employees, a prudent farmer cooked up the solution.  In the heat of the day, his workers would snack on mini bites washed down with wine, allowing them to work through til night for a well-deserved feast.  He started his idea the very next day and the rest, as they say, is history.

Third, the crafty innkeeper

The story goes that a new landlord took over a thriving pub but being mean and lazy, the locals soon left for better watering holes, free of flies and poor wine.   So the landlord hatched a cunning plan.  He topped the wine glasses with a thin slice of ham, thereby fooling the taste buds of his drinkers and masking the taste of the foul wine.  What’s more, the ham acted as a lid guarding it from eager flies.  And so, the tapa was named; tapa literally means ‘lid’ or ‘cover’ in Spanish.

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