• Everyone's nuts for Nutella

    Very few cultural icons have an impact as high as Nutella. With over thirty books published on the hazelnut spread, film, TV and music reference it, and full page editorials on the alleged health benefits have been published. Amazing when you think, Napoleon can be credited with original the creation of the hazelnut paste from Piedmont.

    Nestled between Maserati and FIAT on the ConfCommercio website of top 20 Italian brands by sales, Nutella is one of Italy’s most famous exports. Yes, two famous car companies are separated by this chocolate producer, rendered famous by its manufacturer, Ferrero. 

    As a child, summer holidays in the homeland would consist of getting through a jar without much bother. As I got older, and more boisterous, my brother and I believed that fighting over the last slither of nutella was the most grown up thing that you could do. Now, in our thirties, I would quite happily put him, a dad of two, in his place should we ever find ourselves in such a similar predicament.

    The sight of fresh oven baked bread with a selection of either Nutella or fruit spreads could quite happily summarise my favourite childhood memories, but now, those days are nearly gone. I think we all have Mr Atkins to blame for that.

    You see, before Atkins, before the bickering, before discovering the weird fact that Gerard Butler does indeed want to be buried with a jar of the hazelnut delight (don't take my word for it just google that one),I knew two things about Nutella. Firstly, in Piedmont it’s known as Gianduja, and secondly, I knew that both Napoleon and Hitler had something to do with it’s creation.

    The Piedmont farmers whose range of produce spans from meats to dairy and even corn and wheat supplies,  were also keen chocolatiers. In fact the region itself has laid claim to the creation of praline and chocolate fondant above many other produce.

    It was during the Napoleonic wars that these very farmers got creative. Whilst Napoleon spent the majority of his time trying to destroy trade routes and thus create economic advantage over the Brits by stifling the export economy, the price of food commodities unsurprisingly shot up; in particular, cocoa solids. Rather than no longer produce chocolate from the solids, they added more milk and cultivated the hazelnut trees around the region and added these ingredients to create a chocolate hazelnut paste; later to be called Gianduja.

    It was a pattern that was to be recreated some one hundred years later with the second world war. With food rationing in full swing across Europe, thanks to, well, you know who, the price of chocolate once again increased and a solution needed to be found. An Italian pastry maker, Pietro Ferrero, father to Michele Ferrero who would go on to created one of the world’s largest chocolate factories, took the hazelnut chocolate recipe and created ‘pasta Giandujot’, modifying the recipe slightly.

    And even the word, Gianduja, has it’s own unique history. “A smiling Piedmontese peasant with a three point hat, riding around on a donkey clutching a duja of wine” This is Gianduja, a character created by Giovan Battista Sales who after fearing his other notable fictional character had too many similarities to Napoleon created a more representative character of the region. His name is apparently meant to come from “Gioan d’la’ douja” meaning “John of the wine people”, Piedmont being notoriously famous for its fine selection of wines even as early as the late 18th century.

    And it’s amazing how far the spread has come since the 1940s. Random statistics about sales, “a jar is sold every 2.5 seconds across the world” to the amount of hazelnuts used in a daily production cycle “75 million”. The fact that it has it’s own “World Nutella Day” started by two bloggers who chose the week before Valentine’s day probably out of spite for all the happy couples; who knows?

    And pop culture hasn't spared Nutella in books, TV or films. Nanni Moretti, a film pioneer of Italian irony and sarcasm famously devoured a whole a vat of Nutella after a romantic liason in the film Bianca; it was his own unique way of describing that men can't live off one decadent indulgence at a time. There have been over thirty books written solely on the subject of Nutella, and its facebook page was the third most liked until last year, coming behind Barack Obama and Coca-Cola. 

    Is it the healthiest, no. Is it what you should all be eating on a day to day basis? Probably not. But Nutella has become the metaphor of desire, as Leonardo Pieracioni said in i laureati “do we want to sit here for the rest of our lives and cry over spilt nutella?" Probably! 

    11 comments → Everyone's nuts for Nutella

    1. Anonymous said... 22 April 2013 at 14:47

      Thanks for writing this. I am not sure but i never knew it's an Italian brand ;-) And oh boy, created as a result of shortage of chocolate after WWII? I LOVE Nutella... and pancakes, of course! And i will now go to the local store and become part of that random statistic of “a jar is sold every 2.5 seconds across the world” LOL

    2. Thanks DianaMarinova for the comment. Yep, Italian through and through. Like Kinder Eggs but their name is German... travesty! Glad you enjoyed the piece, you can check out some other food posts on MLV as well, if you like that kind of thing :). (Torta Della Nonna, and the history of the Pizza are well liked!)

    3. A nutella pizza as an offering in Little Italy in The Bronx was a lowlight of a culinary tour there!

    4. My daughter is crazy about Nutella! It did nothing for me, and that is coming from a die-hard chocolate lover. Interesting facts; I'll pass them on.

    5. I have never tried Nutella. I must remedy that. I love chocolate, and I love hazelnut...

    6. Anonymous said... 22 April 2013 at 20:49

      My youngest daughter has found her love in Nutella. I had never tasted it till we started buying it for her.

    7. I think I've only had Nutella once---in England (although we have it here in the U.S.) I know there are some people who cannot live without it. Now that I have broadened my palate, I'm afraid to try it again, lest I become addicted. I do love dulce de leche. Do you think that could be an "entry drug" to Nutella? (You know, like some people say marijuana use leads to heroin).

    8. Alesha, thats great that your Daughter loves it, I was obsessed with it as a child.

      Jerri, you don't know what you're missing... GET ON IT!

      Jon... amazing isnt it how a friend or child can introduce you to something like this!

      Boomeresque, entry drug is amazing as an idea. First nutella, then truffles!

    9. Great read, Gino.
      But couldn't think to this guy during the reading!! ;-)

    10. Anonymous said... 29 April 2013 at 04:23

      I had absolutely no idea Nutella hailed from Italy.
      In Australia back when I was at school, we had little tubs with a tiny spoon to eat it with. It was the "thing" to eat :)

    11. Each morning starts with Nutella!

    Post a Comment