Only days after their king Juan Carlos announced he would step down, the Spanish football team, too, abdicated from their reign as world champions, and they did so without any style. Beaten successively and comprehensively, they were the first team to go out, thereby ruining whatever credibility I ever had for predicting the winner of this tournament.
The premature exit also means that I have not prepared anything for Spain, thinking. obviously, I would have all the time in the world to do so. Spanish food has become incredibly popular over the last decade or two, probably because of the fact that Spain is such a popular holiday destination, not just for Brits.
One of my favourite regions of Spain is Andalusia, in the very south of the peninsula. Here the centuries of Moorish rule are most visible in form of the buildings from the time, such as the Alhambra in Granada or the mosque in Toledo. Even the name ‘Andalusia’ is a reminder of the muslim past; ‘Al Andalus’ was the name of the part of the peninsula governed by muslim rulers from around the 8th century until the ‘reconquering’ by the ‘Catholic’ monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492.
When I came to Andalusia for the first time, I had never heard of tapas, little bite-size snacks that were served in bars to accompany your drinks. At that time they were still a novelty, an Andalusian tradition, and not the epitome of Spanish food they are today. Something delicious to nibble, such as e fef slices of fried chorizo or dates wrapped in ham, never more than a mouthful or two.
In Granada in the 1990s, you did not order your tapas, they came to you: in some bars it was ever only salted almonds or a few olives, others had a reputation for excellent seafood or meat and you planned your night out around the type of food you were hoping to eat.
With your tapas you had vino de verano, ‘summer wine’ that was served as an alternative to the cañas of beer. Even if it’s probably just a quick and easy version of sangría, vino de verano is delicious and refreshing – the perfect accompaniment to any snack.
All you need is red wine and lemonade – 7up or sprite or similar – and ice. I like to mix it 2/3 wine to 1/3 lemonade, but you might prefer a stronger concoction. Try and adjust until you get the perfect mix.
The lemon slice is optional, the tapas aren’t.