As glasses fill up with wine and gradually empty with every sip, the conversation begins to blossom as the restaurant table is strewn with little plates and bowls, filled with savoury nibbles – tapas.
Tapas in Spanish cuisine are small portions of food, with the word deriving from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”. The link between where the word stems from and what it has come to mean in modern times dates back to pre-19th century Spain.
The appetisers started out being offered, at taverns, inns and hotels, to travellers. With very few innkeepers having the skills to write and travellers being unable to read, the solution was to serve their guests taster dishes on a “tapa” (“pot cover”).
However, this isn’t the only theory for how the style of eating came into existence. According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were thin slices of meat or bread that were served with sherry in Andalusian taverns. To prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet wine, people used the food to cover their glasses.
Since the meat served was usually salty – either ham or chorizo – eating them would stimulate thirst. Cottoning on, bartenders began putting together a variety of savoury snacks to serve with sherry in an attempt to drive their alcohol sales. As a result, tapas sales became just as important as sherry.
Spanish history has evolved what tapas have come to be today through the influence of other countries, by incorporating an array of new ingredients. Different cultures have also adopted the trend, incorporating it into their cuisine, with some already having their own existing versions.
Thalis, for example, are an Indian-style meal, made up of a selection of various dishes, which are served on a platter. Mezze, being a selection of small dishes, served as starters, in parts of the Middle East, the Balkans, Greece, and North Africa, also perfectly embodies the essence of tapas.
Whether it’s because of the mix and match aspect, that that allows you to feast from a smorgasbord of delicious food, or people’s love for coming together and sharing a meal, tapas are trending globally on the culinary scene.
This style of eating bite-size portions, of various dishes, has grown in popularity in many parts of the world. But, when it comes to the trend, a lot of focus has been placed on the African continent.
Every year a growing number of tourists pick countries in Africa as their choice travel destination.
Among them are celebrities, influencers, restaurant owners and trend hunters, who immerse themselves in the many unique cultural experiences on offer, resulting in our influence being seen on a global scale.
This is especially true for cuisine.
Countries like Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Senegal are having an unequivocal impact on taste buds of people around the world.