The history of tapas is controversial. Even now, it is still uncertain what the origins of the tapas are and when it became a popular tradition. There are many versions although none of them have been really confirmed.
Usually these stories are full of legends and myths. Still, here are some of them.
- The most famous one relates to King Alfonso X. Because of a disease the doctors recommended that he regularly sip some wine. In order to prevent the effects of alcohol, he used to eat small appetizers. Once he was healed, he decided that all taverns in Castile should serve some food with each glass of wine.
- There were many road accidents during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs because cart drivers used to drink a lot. As a consequence, the Monarchs ordered to serve the glass of wine or the beer jar with a lid (tapa in Spanish) as well as some cold food such as cheese or jamon. The drivers were forbidden to remove the lid until they had finished eating the food.
- Later on, during the 16th century the word tapa (an evolution of the French tape, meaning leg or stage) was used to describe the moment when soldiers used to stop, have some rest and eat. These stops were frequent when troops had to travel for longer than a day. So tapear (which currently means going from bar to bar having tapas in each one) was going from one supply spot to another.
- In the 17th century the private clubs of the Sevillian bourgeoisie used to order wine and other drinks from the surrounding grocery stores. The owners used to cover (tapar) the glasses with some embutido so that dust would not go into the glass.
- It’s quite probable that the history of tapas dates from after the Civil War (early 20th century) when the scarcity of food forced people to eat small dishes to survive.
- Others believe that as bars emerged, bartenders offered salty snacks as a courtesy to clients who would then become thirsty and order new drinks.
So as you can see, no one can really know for certain…
What I can promise you is that it is something you should definitely try. After all, if we’ve been doing this for ages we can’t be that wrong!