To Spread: Peanut Butter? Nutella!

Deutsch: Ein Glas Nutella-Nussnougatcreme

Deutsch: Ein Glas Nutella-Nussnougatcreme (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I was teaching last week the verb ‘to spread’ came about.  Being American I used the classic examples of spreading butter on bread or making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  You might be interested to know that Italians don’t do these things.  Butter is not served with bread in restaurants and most Italians don’t even know what peanut butter is, or if they do they certainly haven’t tried it.  So my examples couldn’t really relate to the everyday eating habits of Italians, but they got my point because one of my students said, “ahhhhh, like to spread Nutella”.  Exactly! For those of you who have yet to try this Italian household food product, Nutella is a rich, creamy spread composed of the perfect blend of chocolate and hazelnuts.  Another student piped up asking if I knew the history of Nutella and why it was created.  Well, even with a master’s in Italian gastronomy I didn’t know the answer, so of course I wanted to be enlightened.  He explained how Nutella was created during WWII because there was a shortage of chocolate in Italy.  The intelligent Mr. Ferrero decided to create a spread mixing the chocolate with the hazelnuts that grew in the Piedmont area (northwest part of Italy).  I checked out my student’s story on the Ferrero website and sure enough he was spot on. Today, Piedmont is still known for its hazelnut production and Italy is the second largest producer of hazelnuts in the world. The Piedmont hazelnut (Tonda Ronda Trilobata) is very popular in the confectionary English: Lots of hazelnuts Français : and is one of the most renowned types of hazelnuts in the world.  This type of hazelnut has been awarded the P.G.I. (Protected Geographical Indication) label from the European Union.  This label helps protect and promote regional foodstuffs, but most importantly guarantees the traceability of products helping the consumer to be sure that he knows where they are coming from.  Now that Nutella has gone global I am sure that they are using hazelnuts from many parts of the world, but as I reflected on my student’s story the moral hit me.  This shortage of a foreign product led to the valuation of a local product within the region and they were able to create something new.  Therefore we don’t always have to look far to find good, quality products, but they can often be found right in our backyards.  Even though Nutella has turned into a mass-produced, global commodity I must say that I still love it.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been living in Italy so long that I’ve become Italianized so every now and then I need to have my Nutella fix.  But I must admit that my favorite way to eat it isn’t spreading it on some bread, but scooping it straight out of the jar with a spoon.


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