Fuck Tapas!

Now I know people travel to eat. It is the best way to know more about the culture of where you are visiting. However, it never occurred to me to travel for food sake. I didn't think about the opportunities in exploring a country through cuisine. I've always been rather open minded about food even calling myself a selective foodie. However, I do have issues. My nose is sensitive. I have redundant colon so I should be choosey. Texture is a problem for me so I may eat sushi one day and be completely turned off by something as simple as tomato seeds the next. Tapas was supposed to be an unintentional, easy way to explore Spain. It was also the most unfulfilling, expensive and nauseating way to explore Spain. I don't regret tapas. I'm happy I tried it once, twice ... four total times. After that I just wondered the streets hungry looking for any alternatives. One could never imagine how difficult it is to just find a decent burger in a world of Iberian ham and funny colored olives. Seriously, there are only so many things even a foodie can tolerate.

When walking the streets of Barcelona all there ever was was tapas. I wasn't mad at that because at first I was quite tired of French food. Well,I'll never get tired of butter, potatoes, bread and cheese but I was over the lack of variety. French cooking is much like southern soul food; everything is so rich and contrived. If it wasn't steak and potatoes it was some stew or large plate filled with greens. I expected Spain to have hearty plates too. I somehow thought I would have massive plates of rice and beans. Oddly enough even my Latina compadre expected the same. Yeah, there were plenty of plates of saffron infused rice a.k.a. pans of paella. Pans so big they had to be shared. Pans covered in shrimp with the heads still attached and texture nightmares like mussels and clams. So we resorted to the small plates of tapas. The starter salads, cheeses, olives, thinly sliced meats, skewers of little fish, ceviche etc. There was never a time where I actually craved these one off things. At first, it was just there and mostly cheap. Besides we only had a few choices other than tapas. Tapas or American fast food, unsafe street food or some high end "inspired" place with more of the same. So we played roulette with the little plates.

Our first tapas was very commercial. The menu was a paper placemat covered in numbered pictures with explanations in a mix of Catalan and Spanish. There was actually selection - little beef sliders, teriyaki skewers, fried cheese, croquettes. So we were impressed by it. Also, everything was well timed and portioned for two. Then we went to a more upscale place where things were more individualized. However, the timing and portions were completely off. She got this beet salad that was like a saucer. I ordered a tortilla (omelet) and I couldn't finish it. I didn't say it then but I was bored. I would watch one of our items get plated, then another but we didn't come until ten minutes later. Meanwhile, some group of younger American couples were obviously eating tapas for the very first time. They were so enthused with simple things like fried shrimp and nibs of potatoes. They were also ordering a lot of drinks and being really rude to the waitstaff. They weren't there for the experience and almost demanding T.G.I.Fridays treatment. They wanted more "things" on the plate and more rounds of drinks. Meanwhile, we're losing our appetites and trying to share hot things now cold. And just as I got comfortable with eating olives stuffed with sardines, anchovies and other random offerings my then friend became choosy. Another foo-foo spot off Las Rambla gave us awful plates of deconstructed tapas. I was given a dish of canned tuna covered in oil and tomato. Our patatas bravas was awful and had no taste. Our server was also having a time and was being snippy.

We agreed with some unwritten code about mercado shopping and eating at "home" while in Spain. I wasn't about to eat in an open air market with things crawling and being slaughtered. But we could bring snacks back to the hotel and fill the small remaining crevices of our mini-bar. Eating chips, fresh coconut, baby carrots, pamplona meats, crackers etc was a way to keep our minds off lackluster tapas. In Madrid, we tried tapas again. We wondered the shopping district and plazas looking at mom & pop and fast food options. This is where we got a lesson on "pizza, paella and pasta". News flash: If they have this it is all the same at every place you are offered it. We finally settled on a place across from a more appealing place. The sexier place boasted a $23 salad so tapas was more up our financial alley. The food was way better this time and honestly Madrid was a safer spot for it. There just wasn't any rhyme or reason to it. The patatas bravas was great, the curry chicken and apple croquettes were amaze-balls and the Coke with limon seemed never ending. Then I asked for water and I was gifted with a huge glass bottle of still water with an accompanying goblet. I seriously tried to "re-cork" the bottle because I was so fascinated by the fanfare of something as simple as aqua. Meanwhile, the croquettes were on a slither of iceberg lettuce and we were lured in by condiment dishes filled with Russian salad on a plastic cafeteria tray. 

The last time we attempted tapas was in Seville. We had just arrived in this tiny place with nothing around so the first place we saw is where we stopped. The beer was Cruz Campos and quite cheap. Her sangria came from a vat and had a whole cinnamon stick in it. We were thirsty. We were hungry. We may have even been delirious. The menu was extremely confusing with no pictures and strange descriptions. She wound up with with barren potatoes covered in some pesto olive garlic concoction aka not patatas bravas. What I thought was some sort of fritata or tortilla was a fritter littered with shrimp heads. That was officially the end of my love affair with Spain and its tapas. In fact, Seville is where I finally settled on pizza. One morning we headed out early to see some sights. I'm not a big breakfast girl and most mornings I have a severe case of nausea. So again, Seville is very small with winding streets of little shops and bars and tapas spots. While meandering with someone who insisted upon walking like the world was going to end and passing all the places readying themselves for midday tapas I got sick. I found myself going in circles smelling a combination of that days freshest catch, the Iberian ham legs swinging in storefronts, last nights beer trails, idle horses dingleberries, ghost of Moorish ancestors etc. I was overcome with all these disgusting smells at once. I was also lagging and looking at menus and signs to break my spell. Pork cheeks, sautéed octopus, suckling pig, raw shrimp with limon ... 

Of course, by then my so-called friend had lost all compassion for anything or anyone. So most of that stroll I was bent over at the knee and she was far ahead. She thought I needed to sit down because it wasn't plausible that I couldn't walk at her "normal" pace. We passed a Starbucks where she nastily offered to sit but I needed to drink or eat something. So now I was looking at a frosty case of more of the same. Someone squeezing valencia oranges, huge baguettes of that oily ham and eggs being pressed in someones waiting sandwich. I settled on a lumpy smoothie in a bottle when I pretty much loathe fruit. When we finally got close to our destination there was stagnant water, clay, dirt, relics, trees, more horses and I nearly succumbed to my imminent death. I finally sat  down clutching my water, my now warm and separated smoothie and my retching stomach. My friend was now at my left pacing as to not waste a single opportunity to burn a calorie. I vowed that day, no more tapas, no more and no more. We went to the store and I lived off yogurt, gazpacho and shandy beer until I found out pizza was 7 Euros for a medium pie. I ate the entire pie. Well, she succumbed to one slice. 

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