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TAPAS are an integral part of Spanish lifestyle. Originally a slice of jamón serrano (cured ham) was served on a glass of sherry to keep the flies out, tapa is the Spanish word for cover or lid. Over a period of time the range of accompaniments were extended to the range available today.
Tapas are similar to appetizers or starters.
They are unlimited by size, ingredient or fixed sequence within a meal; and therefore very difficult to define. The most useful description is that they are entire in themselves; in a larger form they may be served as meals and in a smaller form as snacks. They may be liquid or solid: a soup is also a tapa; with or without a sauce, complex or simple. They present a wealth of choice, colour, aroma and uninhibited experimentation - truly a diners' delight.
Originally and still in some bars today, Tapas were simply a few olives or almonds, and perhaps a selection of cheeses, sausages, and serrano ham and possibly cubes of tortilla served, often free, to accompany a glass of sherry. But nowadays, Tapas have come to encompass more or less any hot or cold dish that can be served in small portions, and they may be quite substantial.
They are displayed along the length of the counter of a bar or café to be ordered in a group, or individually. Although quintessentially Spanish, Tapas are so well-suited to today's style of casual eating, that they have caught the popular imagination outside Spain. A selection of Tapas is ideal for an interesting informal meal, and they are wonderful fare for a party, buffet, picnic or barbecue. Most can be made quickly and easily, a great many can be made in advance and served at room temperature while others can be partly prepared and then finished at the last minute before serving.