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December 19, 2009

Comment of the Week

I titled an earlier post The Tapas Trap, and one commenter with the intriguing name of Little men asked what the trap was.

The idea that Americans eat too much isn't new, but Cleatus in his answer to Little men expressed it so eloquently his post deserves to be recognized: ...

The "trap," Little men, is that Americans just don't when the heck to stop.

Tapas traditionally in Spain was a "snack" or a little dish of something you used to literally "cover" your glass of wine (by order of the king!). It was not even a knosh the size of an appetizer.

It evolved in Spanish society as a kind of very light fare you ate standing up at a bar, socializing, usually before or after dinner at 10:00 p.m.

Of course once Americans got hold of it, we had to a. make it "cool" by forcing the issue of people thinking it was some form of hip and arcane European culinary tour de force and b. stuff ourselves silly on tapas.

The Spanish laugh. (Just as the Mexicans laugh at us getting drunk on Cinco de Mayo.)

Tapas was like cocktail peanuts. It was little fried squid in sauce, then drinks, THEN dinner.

It was NEVER supposed to be a thing in and of itself.

So there's the trap.

We Americanized it--and lost it--all at the same time.

Tapas? Go to Bilbao. Go to Barcelona. Go to Madrid, for Pete's sake.

Then talk to me about tapas. ...

Posted by: Cleatus | December 14, 2009 11:10 PM

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:13 PM | | Comments (8)


Every time i hear "tapas" in the U.S. I want to scream. It's a little snack with your drink in Spain, that's free. You can't order tapas and you usually don't get a choice.

sorta like all the soccer moms who've migrated out to Glyndon. They wanted to live out in "the country" where there are farms and rolling hills. Except they've had their houses built on those farms, and have filled the rolling hills with their mom-mobiles.

Joyce W Love it you are so right just makes me chuckle

"Americanized" seems to have become synonymous with "deplorable" about the same time we became a country. Personally, I like our version of tapas.

Carol in Hampden, "Americanized" doesn't necessarily mean that something is bad. Just that it's not authentic. As much as I hate to admit it, for example, I happen to like chow mein. But I never pretend that I'm enjoying a favorite of diners in old Bejing. (Good grief, Captcha has discovered my secret identity: 'The Adherent.')

Thanks, Michael. You put my protest better than I did. I also like fake Mexican food. I know it's not authentic, but it's darn good!

The statement that Spaniards do not eat tapas other than as a light pre-dinner accompaniment to cocktails is not correct, nor is the statement that you "can't order tapas." That may have been the case 40 years ago, when a bar would set out a small plate of tortilla espanola or some almonds or olives with your jerez or wine, but it is not the case any longer. Spanish cities are rife with tapas bars, and different regions feature different specialities. In nearly a dozen trips to Spain's various regions, I encountered tapas bars in all, and traveled with Spaniards who enjoyed doing the "tapeo" (ir de tapeo or ir al tapas) by going from bar to bar to try the different specialities of different restaurants, with drinks, of course. It is true, in my experience, that Spaniards tend not to gorge up on tapas the way we do here, mixing different regions and ordering dozens of dishes, but that doesn't mean you can't order a variety of tapas at any of the numerous tapas bars in Spain.

"It is true, in my experience, that Spaniards tend not to gorge up on tapas the way we do here, mixing different regions and ordering dozens of dishes..."

kitchengrl: My point exactly.

The Spanish--in the perhaps unnatural evolution of tapena--are emulating us, not modeling for us.

Just so, the Japanese with their culture, just so the Germans with theirs, and just so the French.

And the French HATE the fact that their culture has begun to resemble ours.

Not so surprising that the Middle Eastern cultures would rather tear themselves apart than to submit to our "brand" of civilization.

And that was political, not funny, so I am sorry--but it's true.

I don't blame them a bit.

born dinnered (my gastronome name)

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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