Tapas, the art of dishing out small plates, has become a popular concept in the U.S., with bars and restaurants springing up in cities across the nation dishing out their own version of a sharing menu. However, most Americans don't know the history of tapas -- exactly how, and why, the tiny dishes originated.
All photos by Nicole Danna A plate of montaditos, or tapas-style sandwiches, at 100 Montaditos in West Palm Beach.
Many historians believe tapas began as a way for Spanish farmers and field workers to stay nourished during the long work day, taking small meals accompanied by wine or drink every few hours. In modern Spain, tapas are seldom served without alcohol, and are not meant to be a meal in themselves. Likewise, there are no tapas restaurants -- only tapas bars, encouraging a culture of "tapeo" where people meet and mingle to enjoy drink and food in a lively atmosphere.
Although tapas can literally be any type of food, in Spain not all tapas are created equal. The way the food is served and presented, as well as the type of ingredients used, determine whether or not the fare is considered a tapa (snack), pintxo (food on a stick), racion (dish), plato (main plate) or montadito (food served on bread).More »