In no country in the world are culture and society as intimately connected with eating and drinking as in Spain, and in Andalucía, the spiritual home of tapas, this is even more the case.
Sevilla has the richest tapas culture, from espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and chickpeas) to solomillo al whisky (steak with whisky sauce). The most traditional places will tot up your bill with chalk on the counter as you graze.
You’ve never tasted pork like they do it here in Aracena in the hills north of Huelva. Ibérico is the word to look out for: it means the black-trottered porker has lived a free range life in the holm oak groves, gorging itself on their acorns. All the prime cuts are exquisitely flavoursome and juicy.
Nothing beats the southern heat like a crisp cold dry fino sherry. Jerez de la Frontera does wine tourism very well, with wonderful tapas bars and restaurants and winery tours. The tangy, slightly lighter manzanilla is the perfect aperitif or seafood match. It’s aged in barrels in the atmospheric town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and is best drunk on a terrace by the mouth of the Guadalquivir.
Along the sometimes wild Atlantic shore of the Costa de la Luz, coastal towns and villages specialize in seafood. The crustaceans, from tiny quisquilla shrimps to portly Huelva prawns, are especially famous.
If you’re along the Málaga coast, make sure you check out a freiduría, a simple seafood-frying place with a long bar of polished chrome serving cold beer. The classic dish is pescaíto frito, a mountain of tiny battered fried fish, but also delicious is choco (cuttlefish) or chopitos (little squid).
In the valleys of the Alpujarra is gloriously unreconstructed cuisine. Hearty local staples– potato, pepper, ham, sausage – are cooked up in plenty of village olive oil. Accompanied by Costa wine – muddy in aspect, unconvincing at first sip, but curiously satisfying after half a jug – you’ll soon have a warm glow in your belly.