Tapas are often defined as bite-sized Spanish hors-d'oeuvres, and many people think of them as appetizers. Tapas are more than just appetizers; they are an integral part of Spanish cuisine and customs. Tapas originated many centuries ago in the southern region of Spain known as Andalucía.
The most popular explanation for the origin of tapas is that they began when innkeepers began placing saucers or pieces of bread atop their customers' wine glasses as a way to prevent flies from swarming in. "Tapa" is the Spanish word for "cover" or "lid". These small portions of food that were used to cover glasses proved to be a good way of attracting customers into bars, which is why tapas have evolved from a simple piece of bread into more intricate culinary works.
Although tapas originated in the south, they are served in every region of Spain. Some bars serve tapas for free when a drink is ordered, for example olives or nuts are commonly free of charge.
Tapas are an important part of Spanish tradition and culture because they bring families and friends together. It is common for Spaniards to gather at bars or bodegas for drinks and conversation, while sharing "raciones", or portions of tapas.
There are many different varieties of tapas, but some of the most well known include: