I doubt there is one cultural aspect of living in Spain that is more misunderstood than the concept of Tapas.
Why is it free in provinces such as Granada but not free in other places? Just when do you get a free tapas with your drink and which drinks qualify you to receive a dish of free food? Can you pick and choose which tapas you receive?
All these questions and more will be answered in a new book to be released early in 2008. The Granada Tapas Tour Guidebook is co authored by a young Scottish lady who has lived in the Andalucian city for eleven years. Gayle organises tours of the more authentic bars in the City of Granada.
She takes small groups of people around a few bars that are off the tourist trail. Many are hidden in the cobbled, atmospheric backstreets of Granada. Now she has put all that knowledge in a handy pocket/handbag sized book.
She says: “Going out for tapas is an essential part of Spanish life, and maybe even more so in Granada. There is nothing better than having a nice glass of wine and a chat with an old friend over a tasty tapa. The social side of eating tapas is so enjoyable. I hope to let all visitors to Granada in on this special social scene, so they can come to love the experience, just as I do.”
The book will offer 18 different tours each including four bars. Add to that total a sprinkling of the best tapas bars outside of the City walls and Gayle will be pointing you in the direction of the best 100 bars in the province of Granada. It is an exhaustive exploration of some of the finest bars and, yes, it has been an exhausting process.
Gayle says: “We have had a lot of laughs researching the book, and I must say I don’t think there is a tapa dish that I haven’t tried with the exception of brain omelette, which is only for the very brave! On occasion my fellow researchers drank a little too much but it did not spoil their enjoyment of the food.”
Whilst many people have heard the tale of the origins of Tapas (a glass of wine or beer being covered by a plate of food so as to prevent a fly landing in the glass) there are some popular misconceptions about Tapas. In her introduction to the book Gayle offers some helpful hints for the hungry.
She says: “There are two systems for tapas. They are the choosing style and the rounds system. If you are allergic to any foods then look out for the “choosing” tapas bars where you can get up to 50 different options to try out. Also, it’s worth noting that “tapas time” tends to be from 1pm-3.30pm and from 8pm until midnight. Don’t expect to get a tapa at 12:30 no matter how hungry you are. Another tip. Do perch at the bar or just stand in a corner by a wooden barrel.
“If you see a table and sit at it, the staff will think you want a full sit down meal. Finally, don’t forget to pay! The rounds are added up at the end in all but a few places and it’s very easy to assume you’ve paid and just walk out. It can be rather embarrassing.”
Comfortable feet are essential if you are to do justice to all that Granada has to offer, including a wide variety of tapas bars.
That is where this quality guidebook comes into its own. It does the hard work for you by directing you on differing routes.
There is something for everyone. Two aspects remain constant. It is cheap to go on a tapas tours and children are welcome to join in. Three people each drinking a cool glass of shandy will be served a dish of tapas and, upon leaving the bar, will be charged less than 5 Euros.
Granada is popular with Spaniards living elsewhere in Spain, places where they have to pay for their tapas. The city has a culinary history and there are establishments that have served fine food for decades. In recent years more modern tapas bars, aimed at a younger crowd, have opened in the city. Their decor may be minimalist when compared to the older bodega style tapas bars, but they also serve tasty dishes often with modern interpretations of classic Spanish dishes.
Whether you use her forthcoming book as a companion, or pay Gayle to take you on an enjoyable tour, it’s great in Granada especially when you are eating tapas!
* To place an advance order for the Granada Tapas Tour Guidebook, released in late January 2009, e-mail email@example.com