There is no shortage of tapas books on the market but the claim by TAPAS for special recognition lies in its idiosyncratic treatment of this familiar subject. Author, Janet Mende,l takes a tapas tour of Spain, informs the reader how to enjoy tapas in the tascas and tabernas and then shows the reader how to translate that enjoyment to one's own kitchen.
Taking 140 of her favourite kitchen-tested recipes, all based on traditional Spanish products, she gives absorbing insights into regional nuances, she composes tapa-party menus and even makes wine recommendations to accompany the tapas. A handy Spanish-English glossary is a thoughtful concluding touch.
"I love tapas!" declares Mendel. For her this variety of tastes, enjoyed with wine and in the company of friends, constitues the "essence of life in Spain". This is both a cookbook and a guidebook and this essence or the "tapas way of life", as she calls it in the opening section of the book, permeates every page. The choice of dishes is comprehensive but labour-intensive ones like the celebrated callos â lamadrileña are avoided. Rather the emphasis is on a modest standard of skill in the kitchen.
The recipes are arranged in the way tapas are prepared and served - spread on toast, stuck on a cocktail stick, in a cold salad, hot off the griddle or in a cooked dish with sauce - rather than by food category ('eggs', 'seafood' or 'meat', etc.). Thus prawns, for example, could well appear in every single chapter. Should the reader be looking for a great way of cooking a particular food, be it prawns, artichokes, clams or sausage, recipes with that ingredient should be consulted in the index.
Many tapas can be turned into starters or main dishes and pointers and recommendations in this regard are provided . Also, many sauces and dressings, such as alioli and romesco, are called for in different recipes throughout the book, so these have all been grouped together. Individual recipes provide the reader with a page reference.
Finally measurements for ingredients are given in three standards (metric, British and American in that order) and where British and American terminology differs the British is given first and the American follows in parentheses, for example, aubergine (eggplant) and grill (broiler).
So, an individual - and very pragmatic - approach, a sparkling collection of dishes, striking full-colour photos by award-winning photographer, Michelle Chaplow and impeccable organisation of material contribute to give TAPAS a special claim to be at the forefront of tapas books as the tapas 'revolution' maintains its impressive global momentum.
Author's Note: Janet Mendel, an American resident in southern Spain, has been writing about Spanish food for more than 30 years. Her earlier book, Cooking inSpain, also published by Ediciones Santana, is considered the world's most authoritative guide to Spanish cuisine. Global rights are also availble for this.