In Spain, both words describe the tasty morsels before dinner. As a late-night affair, dinner needs to be preceded with a snack to hold off the hunger. Known as tapas throughout most of Spain these little snacks can certainly make a meal on their own. Only in the Basque region of Spain are the small appetizers known as Pintxos. The Basque people are fierce about protecting their language and customs. Spanish and Basque are both taught in schools. If you go to the area (Northwest Spain) it’s a good idea to learn a few words of Basque. The people you meet will be that much more endeared to you.
The tapa originated in the thirteenth century, during the time of King Alphonse X. The practice of drinking wine before dinner was already a custom and he suggested that a small bite should accompany the drink. The slice of cheese or ham performed double duty as a cover when placed over the wine glass to prevent dirt from falling in (*tapa means lid).
The simple piece of jamon (ham)or cheese has evolved in to towering heaps of luscious ingredients and skewers of all varieties.
Pintxos on the other hand was invented in San Sebastian in the mid-1940s. They have become a local way of life. Starting in the early evening, the locals will start their “pintxos path”, hitting up their favorite bars for a glass and a bite. This will continue for hours. Until it’s time for dinner or until they are too full to eat anymore! It’s a super fun way to join a cultural and historical past-time in Spain. Enjoy the experience, sampling some of these delicacies of “miniature cuisine”. Your tastebuds will thank you!
Here are a few favorites to try at your next happy hour.
The Gilda – The First Pintxos.
Since this dish is so very simple, the ingredients must be perfect. You can order imported Spanish products from amazon to make your Gildas authentic.
All you do is skewer one of each on a toothpick and then eat in ONE bite. If you’re a bit squeamish about the anchovies you can substitute a little cube of manchego cheese. This is divine as well.
Crab Salad Montaditos (A montadito is any bread slice heaped with yummy ingredients)
Mix everything together and pile on a buttered and toasted baguette slice. Sprinkle with Spanish paprika to garnish.
At Gourmet Adventures Travel Co., I craft culinary getaways for travelers who love to eat well and yearn to truly savor the authentic side of their destination. From a river cruise through Provencal wine country to a journey through the heady spice markets and medinas of Morocco, you'll taste your way through the world's most enchanting landscapes.