I was a Nutella fan long before people were talking about being Nutella fans. Long before World Nutella Day or online fan sites for Nutella or even, really, the internet as we know it today existed. (That’s right, I’m ooold.)
Growing up in the Middle East in the 80s, I lived in an apartment building with a supermarket on the ground floor. My parents, who were perennially on some diet or the other, gave me money to buy myself small treats from the store, and the only rule was that I not bring any home (so as to not tempt them, see?).
One of my favourite treats, naturally, was Nutella. It came in these tiny trays, with a spoon/spreader attached. I still remember the joy of peeling open the little tray carefully — the crinkly sound the cover made, the way the chocolate looked oh-so-smooth and perfect underneath — and the joy of dipping the tiny, white, plastic spoon inside and scooping out the first delightful bit. It would be done in a few mouthfuls, and then all that remained was the pleasure of licking every single bit of the tray, the spoon and the inner portion of the cover clean. Sigh. It was never enough, the amount in those trays. I’d always be left longing for more, but I could only buy one at a time. And, in some ways, I think that added to the thrill of it all. Like a true addict, I’d be left longing for my next hit…
Since we never, ever bought jars of Nutella for the house in those days (see: parental diets), I didn’t even knew until I was older that it was supposed to be spread on bread or toast or whatever. To me, Nutella was a liquid, molten chocolate treat to be licked up in bliss rather than chewed or crunched on like other candies. The idea of actually spreading it on something seemed alien to me. Wrong, somehow. That feeling persists to this day. For me, putting Nutella on something else dilutes the sensory thrill of feeling its smooth, chocolatey, hazelnut-y goodness on your tongue. There are often jars of Nutella in my house (I’m not even remotely as controlled as my parents were) but it’s never, ever spread on anything. It’s just eaten straight from the jar, spoonful after sinful spoonful. Mmmmmm.
About a decade or so ago, on a flight from India to London (I was on my way to the U.S. where I was studying at that time), I met a delightful old Italian gentleman. He was small, white-haired, cultured and so very sweet-natured. I took to him immediately and we swapped life stories. It turned out that he worked for Ferrero, the Italian chocolate giant that makes Nutella. He’d been with the company from when he was a boy of 17 or 18, he told me, and had worked his way up. Now, he was helping the company transition into the Indian market. The problem they needed to sort out was how to package their famous Ferrero Rocher chocolates, he said, in such a way that they stay fresh and don’t melt in Indian conditions. He told me about the acres and acres of hazelnut fields the company owns… it was fascinating. When I told him about my love for Nutella, he immediately called the stewardess over and told her she must bring me some for my toast (we were being served breakfast then, I think)! It was the cutest thing. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was feeling rather sick (after the oily Asian veg meal I’d consumed at some random hour of the night), and dutifully took it. One doesn’t turn down Nutella, after all. Of course, I didn’t actually spread it on the toast… I remember asking him when Nutella would enter the Indian market and he said, at that time, that he wasn’t sure. They were still testing the waters.
Well, it’s here now, and in a big way. TV ads, the works. Even our neighbourhood potti kadai in Chennai, Kumaran Stores, has it — large jar, medium jar, small jar, and of course, those tiny trays I remember so well from childhood. I buy it from him more often than I should, eating my way through big, medium or small jar depending on the size of the craving or mood swing. As always, I enter a blissed-out state when there’s Nutella in my hands. I close my eyes and become one with the jar. I always try and make sure I’m alone so I can truly enjoy the moment. Then pull off that gold-foil covering, revel in the sight of all that gorgeous, smooth chocolate waiting to be eaten, and then dip the spoon in for that first mouthful. The pleasure is still the same as it was nearly 30 years ago. Molten perfection. Mmmmm.
It’s that texture — never grainy or rough–, that delicate hazelnut flavour, that just-right sweetness, the just-right meltiness… the combination of all that makes eating Nutella a chocolate lover’s idea of Nirvana. Recently I introduced my toddler to Nutella… not on bread or anything, of course, but straight out of the tiny tray. She loved it, and licked it up to the last, tiny bit. Life had come a full circle. Nutella-loving, obviously, is passed on from mother to daughter :)
Happy World Nutella Day!