[Sca-cooks] Tapas

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Tue Jul 28 13:44:44 PDT 2009

Huette wrote:
> Thank you for this.  Can you cite your documentation that tapas is pre-1600?
> The Oxford Companion to Food talks about tapas but gives no history. 

Suey replied:
in http://www.arrakis.es/~jols/tapas/index2.html
> Y.V. Fad?n gives the theory that tapas started with Alfonso X, the Wise 
> (1221-1284). Due to an illness the physician prescribed light meals or 
> snacks consumed with wine. 

Well, actually he says, "Some authors assert that the tapa was born when, due to an illness, the Spanish king Alfonso the 10th, the Wise, had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals."

Many cookbooks and medical manuals throughout the Medieval world, not just in Spain, call for light meals or snacks to be consumed by the ill. So that doesn't constitute tapas.

The website goes on, "Once recovered from the disease, the wise king decreed that no wine was to be served in any of the inns in the land of Castile, unless accompanied by something to eat. This was a wise precaution to counteract the adverse effects of alcohol on those people who, through lack of money to buy a nourishing meal, drank alcohol on an empty stomach."

Which, ISTR was also the case in some other places... anyone remember where?

"Apart from the story of the royal disease we should consider the theory that the tapa first appeared because of the need of farmers and workers of other unions to take a small amount of food during their working time, which allowed them to carry on working until time for the main meal."

And Spanish workers were not alone in this practice. In other parts of Europe, workers in the field and elsewhere would carry food (bread, dry sausage, cheese, other stuff) with them to eat, as well. Why are there no tapas-equivalents in other parts of Europe?

> http://www.elgranchef.com/2007/04/02/historia-de-las-tapas-espanolas/
> relates the story that Alfonso XIII (1886-1931) asked for a sherry when 
> in Cadiz and the waiter covered (tap?) the glass with a slice of serrano 
> ham so the flies could not get the liquid. The Sevillians say they were 
> the originators of the tapa using the ham custom. Luis Benavides-Barajas 
> in his article  "La Cocina de las Califas" 

Well, the very late 19th and early 20th centuries are quite far from SCA-period. But maybe tapas really did begin in the late 19th c. So definitely not pre-1601.

-- Sidebar --
1600 is the last year of the 16th c., so still within the purview of the SCA. The first year of the 17th c. is 1601.

This is because there was no year zero. Our calendar construct jumps from 1 BCE to 1 CE - or 1 BC to 1 AD for the old-fashioned.

So years ending in double-zero are the 100th year of a century, which constitutes one hundred years, and not the beginning of the next century, which first year ends with "01".
-- End Sidebar --

> maintains that the "/Mezza"/ is /Hords d'Oeuvres /or cold plates in Arabic 
> were served to break the fast during Ramadan with a drink. Hispanic Muslims 
> ruled in Andalusia from 711-1492.

I know the word "Mezze" from modern Syrian and Lebanese cookbooks. But i have not seen in it an SCA-period book. Good translators included special words in Arabic (in transliteration) in their translations, such as those by Charles Perry and Nahwal Nasrallah. It's possible that a translator neglected to mention it. However, cold dishes in Arabic cookbooks are Bawarid (pl.), Barida (sing.). Doesn't look much like mezze or mazza.

So i suspect this is a modern interpolation.
-- Hey, Medieval Muslims ate cold dishes after Ramadan.
-- Really? They do that now in Lebanon and Syria and call them mezze.
-- Wow, that means they ate mezze in Medieval la-Andalus!
Unless there's a passage in Andalusian Arabic that specifically says "mazza"...

This is the website of one of the several groups that do battles between "Moors" and "Christians" at festivals in Spain. They dress up in somewhat "Mardi Gras" like outfits, often with masks to make it clear who is a "Moor" (dark brown) and who's a "Christian" (light mask). Might be good scholarship, might not. Just as i'd say if someone presented me with an unsupported statement from an SCA site, sometimes the scholarship is excellent, and sometimes, well, not really scholarship at all...

OK, just scanned through the article, and it looks to me as if the author never says the medieval Muslims of al-Andalus called the dishes mezze, just that they had dishes that were served rather like mezze are today. And, well, tapas are like mezze, so tapas must by from medieval Muslims. Kinda like my fantasy conversation, only with less drama :-)

Now, personally, i think it is certainly a *possibility* that tapas developed from Muslim Andalusian food service. But i still haven't seen proof, or even strong evidence, to suggest that tapas really are a direct descendant of medieval Muslim Andalusian food.

It's just as possible that they are a purely post-Reconquista Spanish development. From what i can tell, tapas specialties are found throughout most, if not all, of Spain, and are not concentrated in the areas that remained Muslim the longest. Not to mention that many of the tapas i had in Spain - in Andalucia! - were made with pork or New World vegetables, not very Muslim or medieval, although i also had various seafood tapas, too (mmm-mmm fresh sardines). I was traveling with 3 vegetarians, and we were sharing, so i only had one or two non-veggie tapas on each visit to a "tapas bar".

I must note, we had excellent food during our week in Andalucia; the only bad meal was on Christmas eve, when we were forced to eat in a very touristic restaurant in Sevilla, since everywhere else was closed, naturally.

I have a cookbook of tapas from Andalucia, so maybe i'll look through its recipes to see if any are like those in the Anonymous Andalusian. But even if any were, that could still be "co-inky-dink" (the pronunciation of "coincidence by US entertainer from the 30s-60s, Jimmy Durante, who often intentionally mispronounced words). Or perhaps the cookbook author invented new recipes after seeing Ambrosio Huici Miranda's translation of that 13th c. book...

Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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