Content provided by the Health & Wellness Team at GBS Benefits
From the Dietitian’s Desk
With Becca Rick, MS, RD
The Spanish tradition of tapas, or small plates of food, dates to the thirteenth century. In Spanish, the verb taper means “to cover” and the word tapa means “lid.”
As with all colorful traditions, several stories have been passed down over the centuries to explain the origin of tapas. One story of tapas recounts medieval times, when bar keepers began serving beer and wine with a slice of bread and cured ham on top as a cover to keep dust and flies off their customer’s drink. Clever bar keepers were also aware of the high amount of salt in cured meats, which increased thirst and subsequently alcohol sales.
Today, social interaction is the primary driver of tapas. Tapas are enjoyed across all regions of Spain before dinner, which is traditionally eaten at 9 p.m. or later. Tapas can be cold or hot, and range from simple dishes like cheese, ham, and olives to more ornate dishes like tortilla Espanola and croquettes. Friends and family typically stand around a table to share drinks, tapas, and stories, often visiting numerous locations. Sharing tapas with friends and strangers alike is an integral part of Spanish culture.
Tapas may confer a few health benefits as well. Smaller meals or snacks are easier to digest, which can reduce the occurrence of reflux, bloating, and other GI-related symptoms. Timing snacks between meals can help prevent eating past fullness later in the day and keep that low energy, “hangry” mood at bay.
The social aspect of tapas can also reduce stress and increase the sense of belonging in a community.