>Washington, DC.- One of the things Americans love the most about Spanish cousins is the tapas concept. Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers or bite-size snacks that accompany your favorite drink of choice, be it wine, beer, spirits or sodas. When you have them as part of your day to day, you don’t miss them; however it is when you do not, that you realize how valuable and unique they are. This, in fact, is something I just realized a month ago, as I was travelling from Madrid through Pamplona, Donostia and Hondarribia on my way back to Barcelona. Tapas, which mean “lid” or “cover” in Spanish, are amazing.
In the northern regions of Spain, like Navarra or the Basque Country, they call them pinchos (or pintxos in Basque), and even though they each would like to have pinchos considered as different to tapas, for a tourist they are not. Whatever you want to call them, they are fabulous, and there is one specific tapa which is my favorite: the so-call pa amb tomàquet, a Catalan name for a traditional way to prepare bread with tomato.
It is the simplest dish in the world, but one of the most terrific: take a slice or a hunk of rustic bread, toast it, and smear it with half a garlic; then rub a cut tomato right onto the toast and finally add olive oil and salt on top. Eat it. That’s it, that simple (you can eat it also accompanied with cheese, ham, tortilla or something similar).
It is not the first time since I arrived to the US, I had to prepare pa amb tomàquet before a barbecue, a dinner, or a gathering with friends. People from all over love it and ask me to prepare it for them time and time again. It is a simple tapa, and an easy way to identify where I come from.
Yes, even though it could seem frivolous trying to explain Catalonia through the pa amb tomàquet, I have discovered it is a good means for introduction to my nation. All of us need symbolic references from nations and cultures. Scotland is famous for its whiskies and men in skirts playing the bagpipes, Ireland is known for its dark beer, Switzerland for its cheese and chocolate, Italy for its pasta, China for its rice, Japan for its sushi, and so on and so forth.