SINCE the dawn of time, people have found nifty reasons to get together. This week, the nifty reason happened to be tapas.
Served warm or cold, tapas is the name of a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks in Spanish cuisine.
Serving tapas at any gathering would be a genius move as it encourages conversation since people are not so focused on eating an entire meal.
The word tapas is from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover.” Some stories claim that the tapas tradition began when Castile’s king, Alfonso X of Castile, or Alfonso the Wise, recovered from an illness by drinking wine mixed with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that taverns were not allowed to serve wine to customers unless the beverage was accompanied by a small snack or tapa. The word became a kind of loophole in the law to allow drinkers to consume alcohol.
Other commonly cited explanation is that an item, be it bread or a flat card, etc., would often be placed on top of a drink to protect it from fruit flies; at some point it became a habit to top this “cover” with a snack.
It has also be said that one would be standing while eating a tapa in traditional Spanish bars, they would need to place their plates on top of their drinks in order to eat, making it a top.
Some also believe that the name originated sometime around the 16th century when tavern owners from Castilla-La Mancha found out that the strong taste and smell of mature cheese could help disguise that of bad wine, thus “covering” it, and started offering free cheese when serving cheap wine.
Another popular story says that King Alfonso XII stopped by an inn (in Cádiz, an Andalucian city in Spain) where he ordered a cup of sherry. A resourceful waiter covered the glass with a slice of cured ham before offering it to the king to protect the wine from the beach sand, as Cádiz is a windy place. The king, after drinking the wine and eating the tapa, ordered another sherry “with the cover.” With all the tapas explanation and stories, a chef and an expert Italian cook have taken it upon themselves to make a tapas night.
The plan was strictly BYOB (bring your own beverage) and the tapas will be there waiting to be devoured. They took to the backyard of Kukuk’s Nest and proceeded to set up a mid-week get together there. Chef Joe Mike Lontoc prepared a wide variety of tapas, while Gaetano Sansone, an Italian living in Cebu for the past decade, laid out wood-baked La Bella Napoli pizzas fresh from the oven. Around a dozen friends and chefs from various establishments showed up and delighted in the eclectic mix of tapas and wines. Served were pulpo a la Gallega (octopus), samfaina or pistu (Spanish ratatouille), callos a la Madrilena, morillas with caramelized onions and fennel seeds, chistorra al ajillo and champinones al ajillo. It completely met all gastronomic expectations. As expected, the casual get together was punctuated with lip-smacking sounds, hearty laughter and great conversation.
All in all, the food, the company and the drinks made for table-top dynamite we are likely to look for in the months to come.