We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
We ate a lot of tapas in Spain, partly because dinnertime there (9 pm) is a bit late for us. Also, we kept trying to find some really good ones. I concluded that none of them are all that tasty except with wine or beer, and we were not drinking booze. It's bar food. An exception was the tapas at the Madrid Ritz, but those were about 20 euros each instead of the normal 3 euros each.
I think we only did 2 real dinners, on the fancy side. At one, I had bacalao and at the other, suckling pig. Both excellent.
We broke the rule of Foods to Avoid in Spain, partly just because we wanted to see how they did it. We tried paella twice, once as a media ration with tapas and one shared for lunch. The latter was ok with squid, octopus, mussels, etc, but I just don't get the big deal about paella.
I also had to try a gazpacho, as in my pic along with some tapas. This one was creamy and delicious. We did try Salmorejo in Cordoba. Disgusting stuff, we agreed.
Anyway, the fun part of tapas is deciding which ones to try. That plate in the middle was fried eggplant. Not delicious at all - but it should be. Pic is the outdoor cafe at the Parador de Grenada.
I have traveled a fair bit in Spain and never had a good meal, mostly acceptable meals and only one very bad one. One does get tired of jamon and olives, olives and jamon, olives con jamon and jamon con olives. It seems to me that food is just not that important in Spain - it's the wine and the company.
As for very bad, if one travels to Merida to see the Roman ruins one should not, under any circumstances whatsoever, eat at the Horno de Santa Eulalia on Rambla Martir Santa Eulalia, which is a very pleasant street otherwise. Every place else in Merida is at least good, the ruins are smashing and the rotunda of the bull ring has excellent service, good beer and a variety of interesting stuffed bull's heads.
Been to Spain often. Great fun in Gibraltar tapa hopping and beer through an afternoon. (Except for SBS bubbas throwing me into a small boat after). Loved paella in Cartagena too. Then again love taco belle, Texas boy born and bred.
Tapas for tourists in tourist areas and tapas for locals in locals' neighbourhoods are different... and yes, there are some really, really bad olives out there, and some bad, bad ham... usually served for tourists (both foreign and domestic)... or for the budget eater...
Tapas other than olives and ham: tortilla de patatas, pimientos del padron, boquerones fritos, boquerones en vinagre, mejillones, esparragos trigueros, ensaladilla rusa, calamares, chopitos, pescaditos, jeta de cerdo, pulpo, pinchos morunos, caracoles, pa amb oli...
I would never eat paella from a restaurant (sadly, I have, hence why I don't), best paella is home made by an old lady cooking it at an outside kitchen using fallen encina branches as firewood... one must procure some Spanish acquaintances from the countryside or whose grandparents grew up somewhere rural...
Quality of tapas tends to be poor in the south and Barcelona, better in Madrid, fantastic in the north, particularly San Sebastian or even better, Bilbao...
How do I know? I am from Spain (but I live in North America)