Corkey Trivia Blog

Liane’s Corkey Trivia: Tapas and Alfonso the 10th

By now, most people have heard of “Tapas”.   It’s the Spanish version of pupus with an interesting history.

A long time ago, the Spanish king Alfonso the 10th, also known as “The Learned” fell ill. In order to recover, he had to take some small bites of food with some wine between meals. In those days, it was safer to drink wine and beer rather than the water (which was often contaminated). Alfonso was the great law giver of Spain in the 13th century. So in keeping with his law writing proclivity, once the wise King recovered, he ordered that in all the inns of Castile’s land, wine could only be served with something to eat, even if it was just a little something.

Even after the bottle-shops and taverns had popped up all around Spain, the demand of the wise King continued to be in effect. The top of every wine glass or jar of wine served in public establishments was covered with a slice of either smoked ham or cheese. In practice, it served two purposes: first to prevent stray insects from attempting to swim the backstroke from one side of your glass to the other, and secondly to provide the wine drinker with something solid to help soak up the alcohol, and thus prevent the ill effects of a touch too much wine. Hence the word “Tapa” referring to the solid food covering the top of your wine glass.The traditional drink with tapas is wine. Either “peleon” (young and cheap) or “reserva” (long time oak-barreled) wines of the respective regions.

In Spain, you have to wait a long time between breakfast and lunch. It’s a big meal which equates to our dinner. It’s eaten between 1:30 – 4PM complete with a siesta after the meal. To tide them over till lunch, some people have a little appetizer or snack “tentempie” or a “tapa” before lunch which also serves to allow people to gather socially or to talk about work before their lunch break.

Americans have a tapa before our main meal too. It’s called lunch. Think about it. American lunches are traditionally sandwiches which could top a wine glass just fine if the need arose. Our dinners are our heaviest meal. Spanish dinners often consist of lighter fare such as tapas.

In Europe, the big meal of the day is in the late afternoon and at night they eat light, not to mention the vino imbibed throughout the day. J In America, we eat light throughout the day and then eat big at night. Perhaps that is why Americans in general have more generous girths than Europeans.

On March 23rd 5:30-7pm Donato will make Tapas to pair with his very excellent Spanish wines from Priorat. A deal at $10. If you have not had Spanish Tapas, this would be fun event to check it out. Call for reservations.

Liane Fu

About Liane Fu

Certified Sommelier, General Manager, President Liane was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. She graduated from the Kamehameha Schools in 1977, and worked in the bookkeeping department of Villa Roma, a women’s retail clothing store owned by her mother Audrey Fu, before flying off to college in New York City. She was a physics major at New York University (NYU). In her first semester, she attended a concert that was interpreted for the deaf. She became fascinated by the idea of communication through movement which for her was kind of like hula on steroids.


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