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Tapas, Escargot and Impressionist Painting

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With all due respect to Andy Rooney, tapas and escargot. Please excuse this long ramble about Tapas. Don't get me wrong, I love bite sized items packed with flavor - only I'm used to calling them "starters," or how about "appetizers," and the classic term "finger-food." The only difference was "starters" were cheaper!

So, while reading the next portion of this rant, you nned to use a voice in your head similar to that of the late great Andy Rooney with a TV director voice giving directions.


"Have you ever wondered why some people become foodies, chefs or barbecue pit masters? "

Director: Pan out, show head body shot behind counter with several plates of food.

"Probably not, but I have. That's the kind of man I am. I think about things that many people may simply dismiss. You may think about the the color paint you want on your new car while I'm think about using sweet barbecue sauce or trying a sauce that's mustard based. Or I'm thinking about what makes a cupcake worth six dollars."

Director: Go, camera B, tight shot on plates of food. Standby for wide shot.

"You may think about global investing and I may think about the word tapas. I understand that Tapas actually means appetizer, small snack etc. So why does my tiny tapas plate at a fancy restaurant cost more than a steak dinner at another restaurant. Do any tapas restaurants offer appetizer menus?"

Director: End with wide shot, fade black. 

Back to me - Kent - thinking as I type. Alright, I know it may seem weird to some topics like this get stuck in my head - until the next dumb question comes along. Here's a couple of good ones. Who decided to stuff the first olive? Who was the first person that walked onto the beach and deciede to eat seaweed?

Here's a big one. Who ate the first snail? Did that person lose a bet? Many people associate escargot with French cooking, so you can use a French accent when reading the following. Setting - group of French guys back in time arguing about a lost bet.

"Come on Andre, eat the snail!"
"No, I refuse to do such a thing."
"You lost the bet Andre, you must eat the snail"
"No, I choose against the snail, somebody at work may be watching this!"
"Come on, do you want to shame your family?"
"Ok Claude, but nobody makes a painting of this!" (Possibly a Reference to old school facebook pic posts)
"Of course not, no painting."
"Claude do you promise? Claude promise me, not painting."
"Ok, here goes... I'm watching you Claude... no posting paintings... GULP!" 

"Oh, dude, you totally ate a snail! And I, Claude Monet is sooo going to paint that!"

And I think that's is how impressionist painting started... with the eating of a snail.

Actually, that's probably not how impressionist painting started and eating snails may actually go back to prehistoric times. Many cultures love eating those little things. I will not even touch on survival training and eating snails, grubs, bugs and such. If you visit any Internet video hosting site such as youtube try typing in "eating snails" some of these folks take it past a culinary level. While you are there search Steve Martin's movie the Jerk and check out that snail scene. Classic.

I'm a foodie because I like food, love a good recipe from an Aunt, Granny, Momma and enjoy conversations over a good meal. I'm not a foodie because I want to try things that gross me out. That kind of takes the fun out of it. 

I've had my snail. I tried it. In my mind it's similar to the whole Rocky Mountain oyster thing and Bungee jumping - I'm done.

The last time I ate tapas I let the table asking myself why I just didn't have onion rings on the way here? And as far as Tapas goes, I love some of the amazing tapas dishes I've sampled over the years. I just can't figure out why so many people go nuts over the word. I guess it's because going to a tapas restaurant sounds sexier that visiting an appetizer restaurant. Here's another fake conversation.

"John, I have an idea for a restaurant called Appetizers Are Us!"
"Nah, it won't sell. Not sexy enough for dates."
"Oh, how about International House of Small Servings?"
"No, no... think sexy, think exotic, think about charging eight to fifteen dollars for three meat balls and some bread on a small plate."
"By gosh, you have something there!"
"Let's call it TAPAS!"
"What's that mean?"
"I think its' spanish for tiny and overpriced!"

In fact, Tapas is a Spanish word used mostly to describe food served in small portions. And, the customary way to eat Tapas is to mingle around, with friends, sip on wine, a beer, have a great conversation. Sound familiar? It sounds like a NASCAR or SEC tailgate while enjoying some "finger foods" from the grill!

There are plenty of great restaurants serving "tapas" style dishes around. And, I've eaten at many of them. And there are countless Tapas recipes available. I hope you'll try some from this site - their in the STARTERS section.

My only issue with Tapas dishes at restaurants is the price. If I order a Tapas Ribeye plate... go ahead and bring me the whole ribeye, I'll cut it up myself! All kinding aside, here is a simple meatball tapas recipe. You can never go wrong with a good meatball.

meatballMeatball Tapas with Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon steak sauce
1 egg beaten
1 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons fine minced onion
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons red wine
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons rosemary
2 teaspoons parsley 

In a bowl, thoroughly mix together the beef, breadcrumbs, cheese, steak sauce, egg, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper,garlic, onion.. Using your hands, shape the mixture into 15 to 20 firm balls.Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook for several minutes or until browned on all sides. Add the tomatoes, wine, basil, and rosemary. Simmer gently for around 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked. Season generously with salt and pepper and serve three or four on a plate hot with slices of fresh bread. Serve over rice or orzo if desired.

Pictures - Meatballs, the Cattlemens Beef Association.
Picture - Escargot, wikipedia. Creative commons. 

Kent Whitaker

Kent Whitaker, also known as "The Deck Chef," is a culinary writer and cookbook author. He's also penned Young Reader and History titles. The former winner of the Emeril Live Food Network Barbecue Contest also covers football, motorsports, and bass fishing. Kent currently lives in East Tennessee with his wife, son, and a couple of dogs that love when he fires up the smoker or grill.

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