Nutella

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I’m on the verge of admitting that I’ve got an addiction. To be honest, I’m not sure it qualifies as a full-fledge addiction because, so far, it hasn’t infringed upon my personal or professional life. On the other hand, it is something of which I inhale mass quantities and, when I’m around it, I feel like I can’t control myself.   Nutella.   Just typing it makes me go weak in the knees. Luckily, if I want a jar I’ll have to go down (and back up) four flights of stairs. I’ve decided that keeping it in my apartment is a dangerous thing because, unlike most people who would get sick eating massive quantities of chocolate, I could happily consume enough Nutella to feed an entire classroom of third graders. I can find just about anything to put it on. Cookies, bread, croissants, and chocolate bars, to name a few. Of course there’s the classic – just dipping a massive spoon into the jar over and over (and over) again. I haven’t sunk so low as to smear it onto chicken or beef yet, but I’ve thought about it.   Some of you may not be familiar with Nutella because it’s not terribly popular in the United States. Nutella, which is the number one spread sold in Europe, is a chocolate hazelnut spread that Europeans eat in much the same way Americans eat peanut butter. More Nutella is sold worldwide than every brand of peanut butter combined. Here in Paris, you’ll find Nutella at pretty much every corner creperie. Of course, like peanut butter, there is a myriad of ways in which one can enjoy it. The classic Nutella crepe, the Nutella and banana crepe, Nutella and whipped crème, Nutella and chopped nuts, Nutella and strawberries, and Nutella on waffles, to name a few.   Nutella was created in the 1940s by an Italian pastry chef named Pietro Ferrero. Because of war time rationing, it was tough for people to get cocoa and so chocolate was only available to the elite. Ferrero came up with a concoction of cocoa mixed with toasted hazelnuts, vegetable oils, and cocoa butter to create a chocolaty spread that people could afford. It was wildly popular. Soon, a service called “The Smearing” began, in which kids would go into their local grocery store with a slice of bread and eagerly line up for a smear of Nutella. By the late 1940s, Nutella was in such high demand that Ferrero worked with local farmers to increase the production of hazelnuts, a key ingredient. By 1964, well beyond the years of the war and cocoa rationing, Nutella was still so popular that it began to be mass produced and sold outside Italy and by 1983, was produced in the United States.   Happy 40th birthday, Nutella! I’m sure you’d make a lovely frosting.   Nutella hasn’t been completely without controversy. Kobe Bryant, a star basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, signed an endorsement deal with Nutella in 2001 in which his picture appeared on displays and jars, and the website sponsored an autographed basketball giveaway contest. But in August of 2003, while Bryant was embroiled in a rape accusation, Nutella announced that it was dropping Bryant from its ads. Nutella probably gained more publicity from this announcement than it did from having Bryant as a spokesperson to begin with.   Nutella has all the necessary qualities of stardom: War-time drama, a rise from humble beginnings, a sex scandal, and obsessive stalkers (such as me). If you haven’t tried Nutella yet, please do! Maybe you’ll find yourself in a situation like me: On the verge of admitting you’ve got a problem. They say that’s the first step to recovery, right? I’m not sure 12-step programs are as prevalent in Paris as they are in the States, but if I find a N.A. meeting—that’s Nutella Anonymous—I’ll let you know.
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