If you are headed to Spain, get your taste buds ready to enjoy one of the great culinary treats in the world, tapas (also called pinchos in some parts of far northern Spain).
Tapas are bite-sized food portions, not only served in restaurants, but also in almost every bar and pub in the country from early afternoon onward. They come in both hot and cold varieties and can either be eaten as a way to tide you over to the traditionally late Spanish dinner or as a meal unto itself. This shot came from my stay in Valencia, but you will find tapas all over Spain.
A couple of questions usually come up the first time you wander into a bar serving tapas:
Do I just pick some of the ones displayed and eat them? Absolutely. They are put out fresh daily and replenished as needed. If they are on display, as in the photo, just grab a plate and pick some up and start eating.
How do they keep track of what you’ve eaten and how do I pay for it? In most places, you will just keep the toothpicks, some of which are different colors or sizes that represent different prices. When you are ready to pay they will either just ask you what you ate or count toothpicks. It can be a bit of an honor system, so do not tempt the travel karma gods by cheating.
How much does it cost? In my experience, a portion of tapas will usually run from 2€ to 4€, tending towards the lower end of that scale more commonly. A wonderful glass of Spanish wine will usually cost around 3€ or so and you can do a fairly filling meal and drinks for under 15€.
So next time you are in Spain, dive right in and enjoy one of the best food traditions you will find anywhere on the planet.