25 October 2008

In Jaén, as in Granada, they still practice tapeo as it should be practiced: the little plates come free of charge with each caña or glass of wine, in a preset order, primero, segundo, tercero, and you do not know what is coming until it is brought to you, though you can get an idea by paying attention to what the other people at the bar are eating.

In Spain I have been given little plates that range from small pieces of bread with olives, cured cheese & loops of breadstick, or a small sampler of jámon ibérico, to albóndigas (meatballs), chunks of pork in a sauce with peas & red peppers, & pincho of tortilla español, which is a kind of omelette made with potato & cheese.

I have had uninspiring plates of oily chicken, fried croquettes, & red-hot little sausages in a bun. I have had prawns in sea salt, & olive tapanade served warm on a little baguette, & chicken in coconut milk with sweet cooked onions, & many iterations of ensalada rusa, often with peas & tomatoes or white asparagus, always with potatoes, & mayonnaise.

The beer is a light, pale lager called rubio (blonde), and each city has its own mark, although in Jaén as in Sevilla & Córdoba, Cruzcampo (today an owned subsidiary of Heineken) dominates. There is indifferent red wine, often served over ice with fanta, & sherry from Jerez, & a type of sweet, super-concentrated alcoholic wine made from dried grapes whose name starts with an “M” but which I can’t remember.

Tapa, I’m told, means “cover”, and was originally a plater or a piece of stale bread put over the glass to keep the flies away, &, eventually, to keep the punters upright. More lists of tapas to come.

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