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Tapas

June 19, 2011

For my birthday, I asked for my family to go out for a Spanish-style dinner, at a tapas bar. For those of you who don’t know, tapas are traditional Spanish appetizers or snacks, small samplings of delicious dishes. But when you get a whole bunch of them at once, it’s a meal.

So the six members of my family all piled into Mas Tapas in Charlottesville for a Saturday dinner after I worked part of the day at Hallmark. The place was buzzing with activity by the time we got there, a little after 7. It was a cute little place with an umbrella-ridden terrace, upon which we would have eaten had there not been ominous rain clouds in the distance.

As is customary at any restaurant, the first thing we had to decide was what we wanted to drink. After debating between bottles of Spanish wine, my brother suggested Sangria, a traditional Spanish wine drink with fruit soaked in it to give it an extra kick. Since it’s my 20th birthday, not yet my 21st, I ordered a pomegranate limeade, which was delicious, although sadly virgin. However, I got to try the Sangria, since it came in a large pitcher, and Mike and Billy had already had Mojitos. Two cars meant two D.D.s, and Nell–the only one who vowed to not drink a drop, because of the baby–couldn’t drive Mike’s manual transmission. I got a taste of my dad’s Spanish cider too, which was strange, but I liked it a lot. That with my taste of Sangria started to get me even more excited for Spain with its 18-year-old drinking age.

Billy and Nell looked over the menu and picked out their favorite dishes, since they had been there multiple times before and tried most of the menu items. We all added in a few of our own picks, and sent in the request. Our waitress came back smiling and told us that we’d picked 12 raciones (double-rationed tapas, meant to be  a meal for one person) and 2 tapas, which was enough to feed 13 people. Since we were only 6, that seemed a bit outrageous to her, so she suggested we cut back. Billy scoffed and marked out precious few menu items, assuring us we’d be able to finish what we had.

And boy, did we. Everything was delectable, igniting a fiesta inside my mouth for my taste buds to enjoy. They brought out the tapas 2-3 at a time, and we passed them around, making sure everyone had at least a taste of everything. Delicious cheeses I’ve never heard of mixed with just the right blend of spices, herbs, vegetables, bread, and everything in between. Not to mention the  prized Spanish jamón (ham), which even I, the vegetarian, had to try, and had to admit was pretty delicious. And I even tried the porktopus wrap: a garden wrap with lettuce, cheese, sauce, pork, and octopus. Sounds odd, but it was wonderful. It was like a never-ending supply: the waitresses kept bringing more and more tapas, reminding us of what we had chosen on the menu when we had forgotten.

When we were all pretty stuffed, but with a bit of room left, my brother asked if the shrimp and the steak sandwiches were coming. The waitress said we hadn’t ordered those; we’d marked them out. But my brother decided we should order them anyway, and accidentally asked for raciones of both rather than just tapas of both. We were all getting fuller the more we waited, but when the food came, we couldn’t resist. The shrimp, like everything else, was fantastic. I didn’t bother tasting the steak sandwich because it looked a bit too meaty for me, and I was full to the brim.

We placed bets on what the price of the bill would be when we finally finished. I won’t bother mentioning the price, but since we ended up buying to feed 12 people, plus plenty of alcohol, it was a bit more than an average family outing. My dad didn’t complain when he paid the bill. Yet another reason to nominate him for the best father’s award, now that Father’s day is almost over.

All in all, my meal was more than I could have asked for. I was excited to eat tapas, but I had no idea they would be that extraordinary. A lot of the tapas we had were traditional Mediterranean and Spanish dishes, so now that I’ve had a taste, I can’t wait to taste the real deal in a couple months. And this meal just indicates a recurring theme for my summer. I am developing a slightly unhealthy obsession for learning everything about the Spanish way of life and trying to experience it firsthand. I’m learning to walk, talk, sing, eat, drink, and be entertained like a Spaniard, all with hopes that I’ll discover a new home while I live there, perhaps enough to convince me to live there after I graduate. But we’ll see about that…

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