The history of tapas is an old one. It dates from the Middle Ages, when field workers would take a small meal with them into the fields, meant to be eaten as they worked or on a short break.
The tapas custom has evolved to become a social ritual in small restaurants all around Spain. Translated, the word tapa literally means "lid" or "cover" in Spanish, and is derived from the fact that people would stand while eating a tapas dish in traditional Spanish bars and would need to place their plates on top of their drinks to keep the flies out.
Although tapas ideas originated in rural Spanish taverns, many countries, especially Mediterranean, have their own equivalent of tiny starter-size dishes: hors d'oeuvres in France, antipasto in Italy, mezze in Greece and Turkey, and dim sum in China. Nowadays, tapas may be eaten as a snack or as a full meal. Diners can order dishes individually or as a group of related dishes. The serving of tapas is designed to bring people together and encourage conversation as people are less focused on eating an entire meal.
Spanish food, and especially tapas, is based on simple methods and the imaginative use of seasonal vegetables and local ingredients. You can make your tapas with anything you like, as there are no 'specific to tapas' ingredients. Tapas is essentially hearty and unpretentious. Ingredients are fresh, flavours are robust and recipes are easy. Preparation and presentation is generally pretty straightforward.
To fully experience Spanish tapas at its best you should try a few of the classic dishes including Spanish serrano ham, meatballs, anchovies in extra virgin olive oil, chorizo sausage, battered squid, fried croquettes manzanilla olives, tuna stuffed piquillo peppers, marinated mushrooms, tortilla omelette and crustini topped with various savoury items. However to keep things stress free, you can simply provide several kinds of cheese, two or three meats and finger-sized vegetables such as mushrooms, olives, carrots and even pickles. Two or three small breads should also be provided. Diners can then make up their own tapas combinations, according to their individual tastes.
Source: www.wikipedia.com/ www.spaintravelguide.com/ www.idealspain.com