Spanish tapas world heritage

Origin of the 10 most popular Spanish tapas (part 2)

Tapas are since some time ago a symbol of the Spanish gastronomy beyond our borders. More and more people who truly love our food thanks to them. But even for us Spanish, despite tapas are something essential on our social life, it is surprising how we don’t know about the origin of many tapas which we consume so often.

In our last post we begin to explain the origin of some of these tapas, which many of you probably didn’t know despite of being your favourites: tortilla de patata, jamón, croquetas and tatatas bravas. This week we continue explaining the origin and curiosities of our more consumed and requested tapas.

– Pulpo (octopus)

Octopus is one of the insignia dishes of the Galician cuisine, but the origin of this recipe might be in lands further south, in the Maragateria region (Leon). Greeks considered the octopus one of the most sublime delicacies of the ocean and they represented it on their mosaics and paintings. Then, when the Romans arrived to Hispania, among the many delights coming from the cantabric seaside destined to the Caesar, with the salmons and the lampreys, there were also included dried octopus for the pleasure of the most well-off Patricians. But maybe the most curious story is that the popular “Pulpo a feira” symbol of the Galician gastronomy, is not actually a galician dish but from Maragateria. When paprika was discovered as a good preserving ingredient for meat, a revolution came to Galicia and during the summer months there was a continuous caravan of Maragatos mule drivers bringing the miraculous preservative through the Ruta de la Plata (the silver path), from the far Extremadura, along with the other precious treasure, the olive oil.

The mule drivers obtained almost free the dried octopus disregarded by the Galicians, and during their trips they re-hydrated it again and mixed it with the olive oil and the paprika they traded. Some time later, Galicians started to appreciate the invention and integrated it on their fests, fairs and pilgrimages, giving it the denomination “polbo á feira” o pulpo á feira (fair octopus). [3]

Galician Octopus

– Calamares a la Romana (fried calamari)

They are called “a la romana” (Roman style) due to the way of cooking of the Roman Jesuit missionaries, who during the vigil period, in order to get over the fasting and abstinence, they ate vegetables and fish, generally coated in batter and fried, to make it more satiating. [4]

Fried calamari


Far back as archaeological finds, only assumptions can be offered on the question of how and when the cheese came. However it is almost certain that the first cheeses were once started domesticating animals in the Neolithic period, 10,000-12,000 years ago.

Goats and sheeps were the first on being domesticated and 2000 years later it happend again with cows. It seems it appeared as a spontaneous and natural fact, although greeks gave it a divine origin (to the God Apollo’s son Aristeo). But what does seem, is that observation and curiosity of man was instrumental in the discovery of cheese:

The first observation was to see that milk curdled after some time.

The second curiosity perceived was the influence of temperatures in the process to curdle milk faster.

Third, if when the curd solidifies and the liquid is poured, the curd is towards more consistent and in this state could be kept longer.

The fourth one is the discovering of the rennet, digestive enzyme extracted from the stomach of a goat or lamb. There is a legend about this discovery, in whicha shepherd from Minor Asia, called Kanama, who stored the milk of his flock within a wineskin (bag made with the stomach of ruminants) and after some time, nomada movements and high temperatures of the desert, the milk curdled. What it is possible, is that by chance, the coagulant effect they had stomach juices in milk was seen, and then the man sought the means to cause this transformation. [5]

Manchego Cheese

[3] Blog del tamboritero maragato