11,034,632 people like the Nutella facebook page. Italians feed it liberally to their children for breakfast and advertising claims that ‘Each 15g portion contains two hazelnuts, some skimmed milk and a little cocoa’ in an attempt to Kinder-ise what is mainly sugar into a calcium-giving elixir for growing children.
Evil you may say, particularly as the main ingredients are sugar and vegetable oil. In 2010 the Italian paper Corriere della Sera reported that an EU initiative to label all food products with a nutritional profile could render Nutella illegal and condemn it to the same fate as cigarette packets: ‘Warning – this product is dangerous.’
Yet the story of Nutella has strong foodie credentials, particularly for Italians. Nutella was originally called pasta gianduja, what we now mistakenly refer to as praline (originally whole almonds covered in sugar originating from 17 th century France).
Gianduia or gianduja is a mixture containing about 30% hazelnut paste invented by Caffarel in 1852 in Turin, one of the foremost chocolate capitals of the world and an exceptional, underrated food destination. The most common upmarket manifestation of the chocolate/hazelnut marriage is in gianduiotti, irresistible gold wrapped nuggets in the shape of an upturned boat.
Ferrero’s chocolate paste, Nutella, now dominates supermarket shelves like Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s or Mars with its distinctive red font crowning a white slice of bread, Nutella swirl and knife. The rub is that I love the stuff. Spread on sourdough bread with a generous smear of salty butter, stirred into porridge or eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon, it ticks boxes, even for a self-confessed food snob.
I never could understand the kids at school who wanted fruit-flavoured boiled sweets over chocolate. Scraping Nutella, unctuous and shiny and with a texture like water-clogged sand, from tiny plastic packets with a mini white spatula is a strong food memory. I could taste the foreign, the exotic, the hazelnuts that made aspects of living in Italy oddly familiar years later.
Is it bad for you? Of course it is. But just as Chinese medicine advises: ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation.’ Should a death knell ring out from the labeling proclaiming it the next coffin nail in the modern diet? Of course it shouldn’t. If you don’t know that lots of vegetable oil and sugar is bad for you then I suggest drowning a vegetarian or vegan in it, so that the true danger of Nutella is made apparent. I do however, wholeheartedly advocate its consumption. Apparently it can be almost as good as consummation … .
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