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Hazel Nuts

June 2, 2011

Traveling does weird things to people. It opens them up for new experiences. For example, I wouldn’t have thought a west coast trip would be my first exposure to such New Jersey classics as the Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese sandwich with saltpepperketchup.

However, I’m not going to further recount the excesses of my recent vacation. It’s just that this is traveling season, and I’ve got traveling on the mind. Tomorrow I’m headed off to my cousin’s wedding in East Hampton. And while there are some great things to eat there that I’ve been eyeing for years, I’m not sure I’ll get a chance to do so with all the planned festivities.

I am going to tell you about how a trip last summer reopened my eyes to a staple from childhood, and how one small act can have long lasting effects. This product requires no introduction as it’s famous the world over. You know it as Nutella. But what’s more interesting is how it came back into my life.

Nutella is really amazing stuff. Warm it and it’s a liquid. Cool it and it’s a solid. And at room temperature you can easily spread it on toast. It’s a classic crepe filling. It plays marvelously with bananas. And if you have some less than delicious strawberries that need dressing up, Nutella fits the bill nicely.

One summer in Miami when my parents were out of town and a hurricane was approaching, my sister and I went to the grocery store to stock up on supplies should the power go out. The authorities advised having at least three days of food and water on hand. The bulk of our purchase consisted of pre-made shelf-stable crepes and a big jar of Nutella. We were ready for anything. When the storm veered away from Miami, we celebrated by eating our sweet sweet bounty.

Then something sad happened.

I started to learn about ingredients that go into processed foods. And I found out the unfortunate truth about one of my favorite treats: Nutella was effectively a jar of chocolate and hazelnut flavored partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. With this disappointing revelation the chocolatey spread was summarily banished from my life.

Presumably the latest change in formulation was relatively recent. After all, now that trans fats are required to be listed on product labels, lots of manufacturers are finding ways to removed the partially hydrogenated oils that have gunked up foods for far too long.

I noticed this on a camping trip last summer.

We were sharing a cabin with a few families. And one of them brought along a large jar of Nutella. I didn’t have a lot to do, besides enjoy a fine selection of white dog whiskeys, so I took some time and examined the ingredients. The trans fats had been replaced with palm oil. This was truly exciting news. Yes, I know palm oil isn’t the best thing for you either, but I do believe it is better than the alternative.

There was a ton of food in the cabin that weekend, much of which was perishable. I have what must be some degenerative mental condition where I cannot abide waste. So instead of eating what I want, I often eat what I must, lest good food be wasted. That meant waiting on tucking into the seemingly infinitely shelf-stable Nutella until the rest of the food was gone.

On the last day, as we were packing up to go, the family who brought the jar was making Nutella sandwiches for their kids to eat on the long dirty drive home. And I had hoped to get my grubby mitts on one of those sandwiches. However, we were loading up our own car. By the time I got around to asking for one of those glorious looking chocolate hazelnut sandwiches, the car with our Nutella packing friends had left.

Nothing makes you want something more than being denied it.

Now ever since that experience, Nutella has been a staple in our pantry. Not that we eat it every day, we don’t. Nor do we consider it a healthful part of a balanced breakfast, that’s crazy. But it is a fun decadent treat on toast, spread on leftover challah, slathered on a banana, or used as a dip for pretzels.

It’s still mostly a jar full of sugar and fat. But it only has eight ingredients, no artificial colors and mind-bogglingly no artificial preservatives. I might just pack a Nutella sandwich or two for the drive down to East Hampton. Heck, I may even bring the whole jar.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2011 10:08 am

    I am glad that you came around. I’ve been eating the stuff ever since I discovered it as a wee chap when hanging out with my dad at his deli in Brooklyn over 25 years ago.

    Sometimes I get carried away with it if I have it around, but I can definitely get behind the idea they have in Europe: make little 1 oz sealed containers with it. Perfect for spreading on bread or dipping stuff into it.

  2. Stephanie Wien permalink
    June 2, 2011 10:16 am

    Dark Chocolate Dreams from Peanut Butter & Co. is far superior to Nutella. Give it a try! It’s sold at Walmart and Hannaford.

    • Phairhead permalink
      June 2, 2011 10:40 am

      Not to be a complainy pants but Nutella TASTES like hazel nuts & chocolate. Whereas Dark Chocolate Dreams is peanut butter w/ a whisper of chocolate. Not comparable

    • June 2, 2011 12:43 pm

      Wow, I came to the comments section to laud Dark Chocolate Dreams over Nutella and I was beaten to it! One of these days, I’m going to do a Dark Chocolate Dreams vs. Nutella post.

  3. Mitch permalink
    June 2, 2011 12:31 pm

    Mmmmmm. I never had Nutella as a kid, but discovered it on Spring Break with Quaker Notes! Kate Spencer had a jar that we all attacked at her house late one night, ask [Mrs. Fussy] if she remembers :) Now it is a staple at our house & my kids love it. One day I came home and found them outside with full picnic gear having a Nutella picnic with their friends… quite a sight of heavenly chocolate mess! Did you know Sam’s Club sells it in HUGE jars?? Mmmmmm.

  4. June 2, 2011 1:19 pm

    If it’s still made with Palm Oil, you may want to google orangutans and palm oil. Palm oil is almost single handedly responsible for the genocide of orangutans.

  5. June 2, 2011 4:24 pm

    You mentioned two of my Favorite All-Time Forbidden Pleasures in one post: Taylor Ham and Nutella. We recently purchased Nutella (a must when we do crepes) and I made my husband hide it so that I wouldn’t eat it all. My mother-in-law used to buy it for us all the time–trying to be nice. I kept asking her to please stop b/c I’m seriously powerless when faced with Nutella (especially with pretzels), but she ignored me until I finally made her read the nutritional information one day and she’s never brought it into our home again.

  6. Jenny on the Block permalink
    June 3, 2011 1:07 pm

    I am dyed-in-the-wool Nutella lover, but recently have been eating Justin’s all natural Chocolate Hazelnut Butter that I got at Target. It is WAY more expensive ($10.57 for 16 oz), but lists Hazelnuts first as an ingredient, before (organic cane) sugar. There is still Palm Oil (or Palm Fruit Oil, which I assume is the same thing), but it is farther down the ingredient list, after Cocoa and Cocoa butter, and before vanilla. And it is dairy free, for all my Nutella loving Vegan friends out there.

  7. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    June 4, 2011 3:56 pm

    EatPlayLove, you are correct if the palm oil comes from Indonesia, but strides are being made in sustainable palm oil production, e.g., from Ghana. Also, you may not use the word “genocide” for anything other than human beings.

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