I've been reading a fascinating book, recommended by one of my teachers at Bauman College, called The Jungle Effect. The author, Daphne Miller, visited five "cold spots" in the world, i.e. places where specific diseases -which proliferate in the U.S.- are rare or virtually non-existent. In each spot, she finds that the cause of the population's health is always linked to its traditional diet.
No, in case you're wondering, Spain is not among the lucky five, but its diet does share something with at least two of the places on the list: Crete, Greece (the source of the true Mediterranean Diet as it was delivered to Americans) and Okinawa, Japan. In Crete they eat mezze; in Okinawa, okazu. Both, just like Spanish tapas, are ways of eating rather than actual recipes in themselves. On the islands of Crete and Okinawa many dishes are prepared for each meal, and are meant to be shared and eaten family-style. Each diner eats a small portion of each dish, allowing for a meal that is varied in color, texture, flavor, and nutrients. Says Miller:
"Eating small amounts of an assortment of foods at one time offers a wider selection of nutrients and a greater opportunity for synergistic food reactions. Furthermore, at least in my experience a greater variety of flavors helps me to slow down and prevents me from overeating."
I agree with Miller; eating tapas is a pleasure to the senses, and promotes your health while you're at it. But there's one more aspect I feel the need to add to Miller's list of benefits: communal eating, sharing our meals with others, sitting down at the table to eat slowly and mindfully, is both a pleasure and a way to healthier eating.