No visit to Andalusia is complete without sampling the regionís famous tapas.
There can not be a more flavorful introduction to the lifestyle and cuisine of Andalusia than a visit to a tapa bar or, better yet, a visit to several.
Tapas, one of the great inventions of western civilization, are those tasty tidbits of food served up at countless bars all over Andalusia. Much more than just a snack, tapas are a way of life, a time-honored ritual, a chance to gather with friends, an edible reminder of the finer things in life.
Theories vary on how this tasty tradition evolved, but the most accepted is that Spanish inn-keepers used to serve wine with a small lid or a piece of bread to cover the glass. Eventually it occurred to someone to put bit of food on top of the lid.
If the exact origin is debatable, no one doubts where this act of genius took place: in the Andalusian capital, Seville. Some even point to a particular bar, El Rinconcillo, the oldest in the city. It was established in 1670 and now, more than three centuries later, it still does a hefty trade in its famous spinach with chickpeas and cured ham.
You could devote a lifetime to exploring the tapa taverns of Seville and its surrounding towns (more than 7,000 bars at last count) and never tire of this moveable feast. Each bar features a list of a score or more different tapas, but all have particular specialties. Thereís the bullís tail at Las Angarillas in Triana, the prawns and the gratineed codfish at Casa Paco in Macarena, the fried egg plant and the wild mushrooms with shrimp of Casa Manolo in Los Palacios Ė all of them tapas worth going out of your way for.
The recipes for traditional tapas are countless, but this is an ever-evolving art form. There is even an annual tapas festival in Seville where chefs get together to present their latest creations and to compare notes. For the new generation of innovative Seville chefs such as Jose Manuel Galindo of Casa Robles, this cuisine in miniature is at the same time a challenge and an opportunity to give free rein to their fancy, experimenting with new combinations and textures. Itís edible art at its best.
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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet