Sometimes Esperanza, my mother-in-law, will prepare a special appetizer course, such as steamed cockles (berberechos al vapor) to be served before the main meal, la comida, but more often she will just serve some quality, ready-made tapas that require her only to open a tin or a jar.
I emphasize the word quality: tinned goods are often looked down upon here in the U.S. (and in many cases deserve to be), but the foods I'm about to list here, though preserved in cans or jars, are deservedly appreciated in Spain (and, increasingly, the rest of the world). The best Spanish tinned seafoods, for example, are artisanal products that are winning the respect of food writers and chefs (see my recent post The Wall Street Journal Praises Galician Sardines) and, while not luxury items, they're not cheap.
Here are some of the instant aperitivos we often enjoy in Spain before the comida.
Fresh pickled anchovies, boquerones en vinagre, are one of my favorites. See my post "All About Anchovies I" for more information.
Salt-cured anchovies (see my post Cantabrian Anchovy fillets in olive oil) pair incredibly well with boquerones and are often served alongside them. ( See my post "Anchoa y Boquerón: A Classic Tapa.")
Banderillas--pickled vegetables on a skewer--are also a popular choice. (See my post on banderillas).
As I wrote in my last post, we also often throw together an easy salad of roasted peppers.
We usually have some type of toasted nuts.
And often we have sardines. (See my post on Spanish Tinned Sardines to learn just how different they are from most sardines available in U.S. supermarkets)
Olives are obligatory. (See my posts on "Olives, Aceitunas")
And on the table there is always a loaf of bread, usually a pan de barra (Spanish-style baguette).
Pairing a wine with these foods can be difficult. We often have a simple red, such as a Valdepeñas.
Or a glass of vermouth on ice. See my post on vermut.
Or a fino. See my post on Tio Pepe Fino.
Or we just have a cold beer.