Sunday, May 18, 2008

What's the deal with Nutella?

My first encounter with Nutella was in Rome while visiting my friend, Michelle. By the time I arrived, Michelle was nearing the end of her study abroad experience in Italy, and she had made a point to assimilate herself with the Italians as thoroughly as possible. Apparently one crucial means of doing so was to become obsessed with Nutella, incorporating it into every meal and snack, and even going so far as to take a spoon and eat it straight from the jar. Our lunches and dinners in the apartment consisted of pasta with olive oil, bread and sliced cheese, strawberries and Nutella. And in her cupboard, there was no average, 8-ounce container of the spread; no, she had bought the plastic, economy-sized tub of Nutella, with an opening large enough to stick my hand into and grab a fistful of Nutella, if I were so inclined (I was not).

I’m sure that I’m simply not cosmopolitan enough to fully comprehend the devotion to Nutella, but from what I understand, it’s somewhat similar to the American love of peanut butter. Peanut butter is also spread on everything, sweet or savory, and is very enjoyable when snacked on from the jar. Well, given my love for peanut butter, I figured that I could perhaps introduce Nutella into my kitchen and it would be a smooth transition.

Again, I think that my lack of sophistication is to blame in that I haven’t really been sure what to do with the Nutella that has been sitting behind an unopened jar of salsa for about a month now. It just seems wrong to put it on a morning bagel (whole wheat with cocoa and hazelnut?), and I think I would need a pan of much better quality if I were to make Nutella crepes (something I can envision doing, but probably not very well. Michelle, being the worldly girl she is, is much better at crepe-making than I could ever be).

Today after I returned from the produce market, I put away my vegetables and milk, looked at the apples and strawberries sitting on my counter, and wondered what I could do to make my fruit fancier for a change. Since I was tired and feeling quite lazy, I figured the simplest way to do so would somehow involve Nutella.

Normally when I “make” a single-serving dessert, the most work I have to do is open my cabinet door and pour out a handful of M&Ms. But why not put together an actual plated dessert for once? It’s hardly a chocolate soufflĂ©, but it’s nice to put in a bit of effort, even when it’s only for myself. Hence, the plate of sliced green apple and strawberries with a scoop of Nutella, a scoop of peanut butter, and a drizzle of honey, which I enjoyed while gazing out my open window at the gray Brooklyn sky.

It was actually a very pleasant departure from dipping hunks of apple into the peanut butter jar while standing over the kitchen sink, licking apple juice and PB from my fingers.

I have a bit more ground to cover before I even approach the realm of European sophistication, it seems.

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