Before this trip, I was a staunch tapas skeptic. For me, the word evoked plates of soggy potatoes and flaccid mushrooms swimming in grease. At its best, bar food.
My reality was turned around upon this visit to Spain. This was due to two things: my greater age and my greater context for tapas. The first is easy to explain: I am no longer a penniless student with no money or cultivated taste for food. The second reveals my own ludditicism about tapas. Though it’s origins are shadowy, the definition of tapas is unbelievably expansive. A tapa can be virtually any kind of food, so long as it’s served as a small-plate portion. Tapas are renowned in specific regions of Spain (Andalucia thankfully being one of them). Bonus for the impoverished student in me: in Andalucia, drinks are usually accommodated by a complementary tapa.
Even knowing all of this intellectually, I was still repeatedly surprised and delighted with our tapas throughout Spain. In Alpujarra, it was a thick slice of the region’s celebrated jamon on toast. In Barcelona, it was seafood preserves (admittedly less excited about this style of tapas, though the bar redeemed itself with its house-made cava). In Granada, it was a hearty portion of mijas - breadcrumbs fried in chorizo fat - with sautéed vegetables and jamon.
Our best tapas by far, though, were in Seville. There was the afternoon we devoted to La Cantina and 110 Comestibles outside the Feria Market. La Cantina served up fresh fried and grilled seafood whilst 110 boasted chichironnes de Cadiz, a thick cured pork that provided a refreshing (can one use that word to describe meat?) counterpoint to the ubiquitous jamon. There was the transcending experience at Eslava, which I will save for a later musing.
Through these tapas jaunts, I was given a window into the heartbeat of each city. Tapas both stokes the fire and sustains the flames for a fun time, whether with family or friends. They subtly mark time slipping by as you eat, drink, and make merry. It changes a bar from a mere drinking hole to a convivial gathering place. Yes, I am now a believer.