Tapas, the Free Food
I am sitting at a small restaurant in Granada. In front of me is a glass of Moscatel, a local non-alcoholic drink and a plate of Tapas (or small snack). I’ve paid only for the drink, this Tapas has come free.
There is a part of Granada’s cultural heritage that no other Spanish city can match. Never mind the Alhambra, we’re talking about ‘Tapas’ here. 😀
Granada, a tapas city has something about tapas culture that makes it unique and special. Every Tapas bar in this city would serve you snacks for free if you pay your bill for any drink i.e. wine, beer, coke, shakes, lemonades or just anything. Isn’t it interesting? 😀
Anybody who knows anything about Spanish food would know the story of the tapa. It was once just that, a saucer or lid ‘tapa’, with a little something to eat, placed on top of the glass. Tapa is a Spanish term meaning ‘on Top’.
You may want to read similar story on Yemas de Avila, the historical dessert from Avila, Spain.
The story about Tapas goes like this. Once upon a time a King of Spain was travelling around and he arrived in a bar in Granada on a very windy day. He ordered a glass of wine. Since it was windy, and the environment was dusty, the bar owner decided to cover the glass with a lid or saucer. But it didn’t look right, so he placed a nicely cooked ham on it. When it was served to the king, he asked why it is the way it is, since he had asked for just the wine!
The bar owner replied courteously, “Your Majesty, this is a Tapa… an offer from my bar to the king “. The king was extremely delighted by this gesture. He had the wine and ate the ham as well. All the people who were travelling with him liked the idea and the place. They started returning to this place asking for the tapa as offered to the king. The rest is history. After that, all the bar owners from Granada started to offer customers Tapas dishes along with the drink.
Since then, the tradition continues till date in Granada and the Tapa has become a culinary genre in its own way. The idea of an elaborate menu of nibbles which increase in quality and quantity as more drinks are ordered, has an enormous appeal.
Usually the first serving with your first drink is small and as you order more drinks, other dishes follow. The quality and quantity increases with orders. One of the characteristic sounds of Granada is the barman’s shout to the kitchen: ‘Una primera!’ ‘Una segunda!’ ‘Una tercera!’. Also, you are never served the same dish again unless you ask for it.
Generally, Tapa can be a serving of potatoes, cheese, meat, fish, bread, crisp fried Seafood or vegetables, sherry-soaked clams, tempura aubergine etc.
Tapas is not restricted to Granada. I had this Tapa in Zaragosa.
There is a bar in Granada for every class of person, every age and nationality, and in most of them you’ll find a healthy cross-section of humanity. The city is full of tapas bars, from the ones that are known only to locals, to the ones that are favored by the international tourist. At a time when high-class restaurants all over the world are half-empty, it is heartening to see the bars of Granada brim-full of tapas-happy punters.
Probably it has something to do with huge number of students here. After all, no-one appreciates free food more than a hard-up student.
A small water fountain to serve you free!
Now, when we are talking about food how can we leave the water behind? Spain has high quality of water from the natural springs of the mountains. In Granada, you can find several taps or small fountains to drink this water.
So, Granada is for free food and free water !! Tell me when are you heading there? 😀
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That was interesting. I want to be there and taste tapas now. 🙂
It’s very interesting how every single bar is still doing it. 🙂
I too get free water in the taps (spring water) where I stay in Tenerife…
Great to know that!! These are one of a few things I like about Spain, which make life easier for the locals as well as the tourists. 🙂
What an interesting tradition…and each item looks really inviting. I came here from your Facebook and immediately remembered an old TV ad ” Itna Khaogee toh … motee ho joagee or muhanse jaynge,,,, or something like that and the girl goes : I Don’t Care”
How much do you pay for a beer in India? You can get it for Euro 2 in a reasonably up restaurant in Granada. And the Tapas FREE !!! 😀
looks very delicious ….nice
Thanks. It’s indeed delicious! 🙂
I didn’t know this! Why would they do it? Drinks must be very expensive else the bar owners cant survive.
No, the drinks aren’t that expensive. A beer can cost you Euro 2 in a reasonably up restaurant. And the Tapas is absolutely FREE !! 😀
very interesting, Nisha! esp that they have managed to continue the tradition after all these years!
I wish we have something like in some place in India.
This is FABULOUS! Just about everyone who’s seen Granada goes on and on and on about the architecture blah blah blah. When what’s REALLY important is the FOOD! This is ALWAYS the best part of any trip! Super article, I really enjoyed it!
You are right!!
We forget about this important factor of traveling. 🙂
And thanks a lot.
I’m getting so hungry reading your post. I am a big fan of Tapas and recently took part in a Tapas Tour in Madrid which was incredible (http://bit.ly/1plo09L)
I had some Tapas in other places than Granada but didn’t know they have Tapas tours in Madrid.
Next time ! 😛
You can find a similar thing in Italy – aperitivo – in the early evening you’ll be offered enough food to make up a meal if you buy a couple of drinks!
I didn’t know that! All over Italy or some selected towns?
Time to revisit Italy now.
Free tapas are one of the best things about eating in Spain! I like the little backstory you’ve provided to how the tapas tradition started. I often go to similar places for drinks/appetizers in Italy, as it is very common there too!
Didn’t know about Italy. I must revisit it soon. It’s been more than 18 years since I visited it last.
Thanks for your kind words.
In Spain I’ve only been to Madrid and I love tapas so I’m putting Granada on my bucket must now 🙂
You must! Entire Andalucia is full of free Tapas. 🙂
Very interesting! I didn’t know the origin of tapas (and I’m from Barcelona! but well, there are no free tapas here). The ones you got look really delicious… were these portions for only one person?
Glad I could show you something that you didn’t know !
Yes, for one person. 😀
So interesting! I’ve actually heard from a few people that you can travel and basically eat for free by just ordering a drink and enjoying the tapas that comes along with it – everything looks delicious too!
Yes, that’s what I mentioned. 😀
I love tapas and I would love somewhere where you can get them for free even more. Another place to add to my list.
Glad that it could appeal you … for food at least. 🙂
I loved learning the story of tapas, I always wondered where it came from. Are tapas served everywhere in Spain/
Served everywhere but not free. It’s free in entire Andalucia and in some pockets. 🙂
Yum! I’ve only been to Barcelona but I’d love to visit Granada! All those tapas look amazing.
You must visit. I promise you won’t regret. 😀
I really love tapas! We have imported them from Spain here in Holland but not the real style, we just go out to eat tapas and order loads … I love the traditional way much better!
oh then I missed it when I was in Netherlands. I guess it’s time to go there again. 🙂
I think every country should adapt to this style in some way or the other.
Great way to woo tourists. 😀
You had me at free food 😉 loved the article! Now I must visit and stuff my face haha!
I knew it !
Ha Ha 😀
Tapas is really a very interesting concept. Had only heard about drinks being free when you order for food. But this is the reverse. Hope this concept kicks off in India too! The story of how Tapas came about is also very interesting.