Some of my favorite tapas are on the coast of Granada. Since it is still around 90 degrees everyday here, I have the beach on my mind constantly. In any of the beach restaurants or “chiringuitos” you can sit down at a table with your feet in the sand, order a beer (or whatever it is you desire), and enjoy a wonderful tapa. Fresh fish and seafood are the norm here. I love when I am surprised with a small plate of grilled shrimp or fried, marinated dogfish.
I remember my first couple years in Granada when we would take the bus down to the beach for the day. There was something liberating about enjoying a cold drink with a free tapa of fried squid and then jumping into the Mediterranean sea merely 5 feet away. My excitement about this has not faded a bit in the past 16 years. Swim, tapa, swim, sun, tapa, swim, tapa, sun, swim…………ahhhhhhhhh!!
During the summer months the “chiringuitos” set up an open fire to grill the fresh sardines. We call them “sardinas al espeto”, sardines on a skewer. For most of my life I thought I hated sardines (?). Little did I know about the delicate flavor of these healthy fish. I prefer the smaller sardines to the larger ones. The larger ones tend to be oilier and have a stronger flavor. A favorite tapa here is “migas” or sauteed breadcrumbs and garlic, topped with grilled sardines. Sometimes a bit of melon is thrown in. Delicious!
Tapas are a way of life in Spain. Small, simple dishes of food that vary depending on the region and the restaurant. The word tapa simply means “cover” or “lid” since originally a slice of cheese or ham was placed over a glass of wine. Whether this was done either to keep the flies out or simply because someone decided it is preferable to have some sustenance along with your beverage of choice, the outcome shaped an important part of this culture. This is my first of many posts dedicated to the “tapa”.
Where I live in Granada tapas are free. Not just in the city, but in the entire province (county). There are many places throughout the country where you will be given a bite of something when you order a drink, be it olives or a small dish of paella. But in Granada, the tapa enters into a whole different dimension. During “tapa time” which happens between 1 p.m and 3:30p.m. and then again from 8p.m. to 11 p.m. more or less, you are given a free tapa with each drink you order. In many bars you are simply given a different tapa with each drink where in others you are given a list of tapas to choose from. The assortment varies from bar to bar and can include anything from fried fish, meatballs, cured ham or a Spanish omelet to fried eggs with potatoes, snails in a spicy sauce or a small baguette with pork tenderloin and tomato. The list is endless.
My favorite time to be on the beach is at the end of the day when the sun has just barely set in the distance. I love the sluggish manner that the families pack up to go home almost with regret or “sin ganas”, without desire. The end of summer, the shortening of days. After surviving some of the hottest days of the year, we were met yesterday by clouds on the beach. Last night the air smelled of cool rain followed by a nice morning breeze. It was cleansing, but if it were up to me I would extend summer just one month more. I tend to spend the hottest of the Spanish summer working and then as soon as possible we go straight north to enjoy a bit of cooler air. Avoiding the Southern beaches in the summer has become a habit. Too many people, too expensive, too many umbrellas on the beach, and difficult to find an empty bit of sand on any beach. However, in early fall all of this disappears and the beaches are left wide open to enjoy. The water has a perfect temperature and the sun still warms enough of your body to enjoy the full day.
The coast of Granada tends to be filled with local people. The beaches have pebbles instead of sand which at times can be a bit agonizing for the feet but I prefer to look at it as reflexology. The service in restaurants tend to be typical “estilo granadino” with a bit of grouchiness thrown in with your fried fish. But for me, it is simply home. Once you cringe over the pebbly entrance, the water is cool, deep and so salty that there isn’t a need to move a limb to float. I can swim for hours. Over the years I have fallen in love with many secret coves in Granada. Even on a day where we have little time to go hiking and driving about, in 35 minutes we can be on a beautiful, relaxing beach. The food comes next…………