Tapas is the name of a wide variety of appetizers or small dishes. They have evolved into an entire cuisine. Patrons of tapas restaurants can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them.
There are several stories about the origin of tapas, which are a part of the folklore: One story claims that while on a long trip, King Alfonso had stopped to rest in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and he ordered a glass of jerez or sherry. There was a gusty wind, so the inn keeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the sherry from getting dirty. King Alfonso apparently liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or “cover” just like the first.
Whatever the true origin of tapas, prepare one or several, then enjoy them like the Spanish do – with a glass of wine and a relaxed attitude.