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In Seville, the capital of Andalusia, eating tapas is an integral part of everyday life, and it has two functions – nutrition and maintaining friendship.
Tapa recipes are redolent of the several cultures that have left their gastronomic mark on Spanish gastronomy, from the Romans, taste for sausages (salcicia), to the Arabs’ refined use of spices. The result is a stratified cuisine, Mediterranean in character, but flexible enough for updating to a faster lifestyle.
Tapas evolved over time. First, they were slices of food (cheese, bread with a piece of ham or olives, salted dried fish) that people in Sherry bars would place on top of their glass to keep the flies away.
These little helpings of food generally served along with fino, oloroso and amontillado sherries have now become famous all over Spain, and even in major North American cities. They are appetizing, quickly prepared, bite-sized, flavourful and fun to eat.
Tapa consumption has become so popular that now the Spanish Royal Academy minted a new word in its newest edition of dictionary- tapear = eating tapa.
Here are a few tapas you can enjoy in Seville or Barcelona or Madrid. Salted cod croquettes, chickpea stew, bread slices topped with a variety of sausages or cured meats, pressed salted and dried fish roe, marinated artichokes, deep fried shrimp, deep fried baby eel (angulas), griddled fish, tapas on cocktail sticks, beef tripe, herb-butter stuffed baked snails, just to name a few possibilities.
Seville has 4000 tabernas and mesones that specialize in tapas. Most are located a short distance from one another since it is customary to get four people together and do a certain route for lunch. This way, the group wanders from one tapas bar to the next, sampling at each a specialty along with a copita of sherry. This way, after 16 “tapas stops”, the lunch is concluded. Each participant takes turns to pay at a stop. (Average tapas weigh 2 ½ (75 grams).
There are different categories of tapas and each bar specializes in one group, ie. fried tapas (in Seville, always cooked to order); cazeletitas (cooked in special earthenware dishes), pinchos (on little skewers and grilled); cucharada y paso atras (literally spoonfuls);
bien me sabe (tastes good to me ) i.e. fried fish; menudio (beef tripe with chickpeas and mint); cazalito (cured ham on fried bread); alnias (dressed potatoes); stewed beans or other suitable vegetables; pespa (griddled swordfish); puntillitas (fried shrimp or fish); burgao (king snails cooked in their shells); en amarillo (coloured with saffron).
The art of tapas cooking and presentation is unique and depends much on the imagination of the bar owner and its clientele. In all cases, tapas and everything related to its cooking, presentation and consumption represents a unique culture.
Some of the more interesting tapa bars in Seville are:
• Hosteria del Laurel (specializes in oxtail, cold cuts, assorted fried fish).
• Plaza de los Venerables Modesto (marinated sirloin steak chunks)
• Cano y Cueto Las Teresas (black pudding in onion dressing, fried hake in batter; paprika sausage croquettes)
• Santa Teresa La Juderia (stuffed peppers, salt cod in olive oil)
• Cano y Cueto Yebra (meatballs, sea bass in shrimp sauce)