I hadn’t until the first time I ever came to Italy and made my first Italian friends. That was about thirty years ago.
“What?!” they exclaimed. “You still don’t know what Nutella is?” I still remember the wave of shock that passed through my Italian friends who happened to be there at the time.
They quickly decided that they were going to feed me some Nutella as a snack that day… which ended up turning into a huge event.
When the scheduled time arrived, a huge jar of Nutella was waiting for me.
As soon as it was opened, everyone started praising the wonders of Nutella. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I could have sworn that their eyes started sparkling. One of my friends then scooped up the chocolate-colored cream in a spoon and spread a generous amount on a thin, baked cookie. Then, with a longing gaze at the Nutella that made it look like she was going to put it into her mouth, she passed me the cookie with the words, “Here! Try it!”
I took a bite, and then another, chewing as best I could to experience the flavor. Everyone was waiting with their spoons in their hands, scooping up the chocolate-colored cream from the jar as if they couldn’t wait another second to eat it, shoving the thin baked cookies covered in Nutella into their mouths and letting out groans of pleasure as soon as they had them in their mouths.
The cookies, by the way, are another interesting subject. They’re called lingue di gatto, which literally translates to “cats’ tongues”. In Japan, we use the phrase “cat tongue” to describe someone who is sensitive to temperature-hot foods, but they have no such saying in Italy. Here, it refers to their beloved cookies that are shaped like a cat’s tongue and modestly flavored to maximize the delight of the Nutella.
Maybe it was because they had built it up so much, but my first encounter with Nutella was rather underwhelming. So, although I felt bad about remaining so levelheaded about it, as far as I can recollect my friends didn’t seem too disappointed at my cool reaction.
At some point somebody said they couldn’t hold out any longer and, dipping their own spoon into the communal jar, simply ate it without putting it on a cookie. At that point they were almost using their bare hands to get at the Nutella—or possibly just sticking their faces in the jar.
“Somebody, stop me!” I heard one say. “Close the lid, otherwise…!” said another. Meanwhile they emptied entire jar. Nutella is nothing more than a hazelnut cream, but at that point I only saw it as a substance that had the magical power to enslave people.
Incidentally, there was a bit of a commotion at Italian supermarkets back in December of 2019 when a new product came out—Nutella biscuits sandwiching Nutella cream inside. Maybe it was the effectiveness of the ads or the explosive sales, but so many people rushed out to buy them that they sold out in an instant. Later, the crazed people going around to supermarkets in search of Nutella biscuits made headlines. It piqued my interest, but when I went to the supermarket to look for some, I found empty shelves with a sign saying “limit six bags per customer”. Six bags? I just wanted a bit of one to see what they tasted like…
So apparently Nutella is some pretty amazing stuff.
Are you ready to try it for yourself?