Nutella is one of those foods I try not to buy too often… because I know the jar won’t even last a week. I love the stuff, and am happy to spread it on bread, bananas, cookies- or just eat it with a spoon. But it hasn’t always been that way. You know how there are foods you grow into? Nutella is one of my later-in-life foods. And once my Nutella appreciation kicked in, it raced ahead at full speed. I now think Nutella is amazingly delicious, but I also believe that my love for the stuff is partly due to the context in which I came to love it. Sometimes, what you associate with food can be as powerful as the taste of what you’re eating.
My first encounter with the chocolatey hazelnut spread came back in 2006 when I spent a summer in France. Nutella wasn’t yet widely available in the U.S., so it was new to me. The professor leading my program would occasionally put out a jar with our breakfast and call it a “special treat.” I tried it, didn’t love it, and didn’t understand the excitement around it. I moved on to the jams on the table and called it a day.
In 2007, I led the French club at my university. I always bought Nutella for our events since I knew everyone else loved it, but still didn’t really eat it myself. I had to go out of my way to WorldMarket to buy the jars since it wasn’t widely available around my college town. I also bought baguettes, cheese, jams, fruit, and Orangina. In other words… the best job ever.
But then, 2008 came along. I was living in Madrid, but took a trip over to France to visit some friends from that 2006 summer. I spent a couple nights at my friend Alexandre’s house, then a couple nights camping with the whole group of friends. The fist morning we were at Alexandre’s house, he served me up a croissant and some Nutella as my breakfast. Taking a “when in Rome” approach, I gave it a shot: and something just suddenly clicked. All of a sudden, Nutella tasted heavenly. I loaded every single bit of my croissant with Nutella and savored it all. The next morning, I did it again. I might have even eaten two! And like that, my love for Nutella was born. There was just something about it that day that shifted my perspective. I don’t know if it had to do with a taste bud change, or the fact I was sitting in a dear friend’s kitchen on a beautiful spring day enjoying life. But from then on, I haven’t been able to say no to any food that involves Nutella. When I got back to school the next fall, I joined the other French club members in gobbling up Nutella at events. And even now, I just can’t resist.
My associations with Nutella are such happy ones now. They lead me back to memories of France, of my wonderful friends I made there, and of those Friday afternoons in college spent with other French students chatting away in a beautiful language. I think of the days I spent wandering the Loire Valley, the time I visited my friend Shannon in Belgium and we debated what kind of baked good would best showcase Nutella’s flavors, and the time I visited my friend Lauren in D.C. and we dipped everything we could find into a jar. It’s really impressive to me that Nutella has expanded so much in the U.S.- these days, it’s pretty easy to find the stuff, and I even saw it at Walgreens. Gone are the days of going out of my way to WorldMarket! Nutella is so popular these days that Columbia University can’t keep their dining halls stocked up enough: students are pilfering it away.
There’s other foods like this, “memory foods,” as I call them. Foods that conjure up rich memories of happy times, great friends, and specific places. Foods that came to me through a specific experience or event, too. They’ve been woven into my life in such a way that I will always think of them fondly, and will always remember the first time I enjoyed them. Think about the times you’re on vacation and try something new: doesn’t it always have a special meaning for you everafter?
For the record: I’m definitely not being paid to endorse Nutella, so don’t even ask. I wish I was being paid to endorse Nutella though. So hey, Nutella, if you see this: how about some free jars? 🙂
For my baking friends, here are some of the things I like to do with my Nutella…. besides eating it with a spoon.
Nutella Drop Biscuits from Two Peas and Their Pod
Nutella-Filled Pancakes from justJENN
Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies from justJENN
Pumpkin Nutella Bread from Two Peas and Their Pod
And the next one I want to try: Strawberry Nutella Muffins from Two Peas and Their Pod