Posted by: travelrat | August 28, 2017

A Bit on the Side


Our favourite coffee shop changed ownership recently. They decided not to keep the Italian theme of the previous owners, but there’s still free wifi, and the coffee’s still good. A little touch was added, though, that they didn’t have before. With my coffee came a little biscuit.

This is by no means an unusual custom. I have an idea it may have originated in Italy. In the pre-euro days, there was a shortage of small, low-value coins, so, when you bought a coffee, they sometimes made your change up in some sweets, chocolates or biscuits.

Sometimes, you’ll go into a bar, and find a bowl of crisps or nuts for customers to help themselves. I’ve kept a bar on one or two occasions, and, when we found stuff like this that was close to its sell-by date, we used to put them on the bar, because, in a couple of days they’d get thrown out anyway. Since these things were so salty, maybe they’d induce the customer to buy more beer, too.

Not far from this is the excellent Spanish custom of tapas. This is said to have come about as the result of a King’s command that strong drink should not be served except with food. A  tapa proper, you have to pay for, but frequently, they’ll bring a little nibble with your drink, properly called an aperitivo. Some say, however, that, because tapa simply means a lid or a cover, these little morsels were originally simply to cover your drink, to stop leaves, bird droppings etc. from falling into it if you drank outside.

In Germany, they simply put lids on their beer pots!

Let’s get back to Italy, though … and, just have a look at the spread they brought with our beer in Portofino!


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