Spanish food is as rich and varied as any culinary capital in the world. Though heavy on the ham and bread, which comes in more varieties than I could ever imagine or manage to taste, the people of Madrid do love everything from sushi to crepes, especially when it comes in the style of tapas (small plates of one particular food, rather like a serving of hors d’œuvre.)
Sharing tapas, however, is a social activity and a bonding experience. It’s a way to have a cheap lunch or dinner with several different tastes. It’s common to see groups of Spaniards (or tourists) wandering up and down a popular street during mealtime, stopping by several restaurants for a half hour each to share a plate of tapas. Maybe first a plate of bread and Spanish green olives, then some small ham sandwiches and mini bowls of gazpacho. Dessert is often gelato or fruit. Even wine comes in the form of tapas in Madrid.
Choosing a dish then picking at it with a group of friends makes those friends feel like family. There is no worry over serving spoons and separate plates – tapas are a shared experience, just as delicious as it is exciting. To debate different cuts of ham or exclaim over new flavors together is exhilarating and relaxing.
It would be impossible to try all the tapas in Madrid in only four months. But I am determined to try. It will be a delicious journey to embark on.