The Spanish word tapa means "Lid" and the nations obsession with these flavorsome tit bits began hundreds of years ago when Andalusian innkeepers used slices of bread t keep dust and bugs out of the glasses of wine and sherry provided for passing horsemen. Eventually slices of ham and cheese were added to the bread, and tapas as we know them today were born, evolving from the arid landscape of southern Spain into a national obsession of endless variety.
Tapas are small, bite sized morsels of tasty food, like finger food, that are uniquely Spanish. Tapas are served in Spanish bars and cafes throughout the day, and the preparation, eating and enjoyment of tapas are essential parts of everyday Spanish version of French hors d'oeuvres or Mediterranean meze (see photo above), but they are very different. Unlike meze, for example, tapas are never intended to replace a proper meal, nor do they form the first course of a meal, such as the role of hors d'oeuvres.