When I was in 7th grade, I had a friend whose family hosted a foreign exchange student. Over the course of the school year, my friend shared stories about different ways the visitor lived – tales about various behaviors the young traveler engaged in that were completely normal to him, yet so strange to us. Things like showering once a week instead of once a day. Dining with the fork in the left hand instead of the right. Eating nutella for breakfast.
I had no notion of what “nutella” was; and when I saw the student slather a mess of brown goop on a piece of white bread and take a big bite, my stomach turned a little bit. It didn’t look good at all. I had no interest in trying this foreign substance – which was fine by the student! He was perfectly happy to have the whole jar to himself.
Fast forward more than twenty years. I’m sitting at my in-laws kitchen table, and I see my sister-in-law make a nutella sandwich. My mind flashes back to the home of my junior high school friend, and for a split second I am transported back to my adolescence. In my mind’s eye, I see that exchange student happily munching away on his nutella… and my curious adult mind asks, “I wonder what that tastes like?”
I decided to find out.
Back in November the Sunday paper had a section of coupon inserts that contained a $1-off offer for a jar of nutella. I have never seen a coupon for this item before (or since); I took this as my invitation to complete item #80. At my next regularly scheduled grocery store run, I located the smallest jar of nutella that I could find (13 oz), and set it in my shopping cart.
Let the games begin.
For my first foray into nutella-land, I decided to eat a scoop of it right from the jar. Taste it completely pure – no additional textures or flavors getting in the way. I wanted to eat a bit of it straight-on, to clearly see what I was dealing with.
Holy buckets. Nutella is TASTY.
It reminded me of a perfectly smooth milk-chocolate-hazelnut fudge that had been sitting in a warm car for a few minutes – not long enough to turn the chocolate into goo, but long enough that it was pretty darn soft and pliable. I was reminded of summer trips to the amusement park or the fair, where, at the end of the day, feeling hot and exhausted and really, really happy, I would stop by the gift store just before the exit gate and purchase a block of cloyingly sweet, gritty, delicious fudge – which I would squish against the roof of my mouth and delight in the texture of the sugar granules, and the palpable rush of sucrose into my blood stream. Talk about kid heaven.
The nutella didn’t have the grit that fudge possesses, but it certainly had the cloyingly sweet attribute; and a spoonful of it was more than enough for the adult me in one sitting.
Still, as I consumed that first spoonful of nutty-chocolatey goodness, the left side of my brain said, “You know, I can think of *many* different ways I could eat this product. In fact, I bet I could eat the whole jar of nutella without ever using it in the same way twice.” The right side of my brain instantly perked up when it heard this ‘challenge’, and decided to run with it.
So, here is the visual journal of how I went about consuming 13 oz of nutella, one experimental dish at a time.
After eating nutella in its purest form (i.e., straight from the jar), I decided to ease into combining it with other ingredients – and therefore began the “nutella challenge” by using a big blob of it to make the creamiest cup of hot cocoa I have ever consumed.
I then decided to give a nod to the exchange student from my youth, and add a layer of nutella to an authentic French crepe. The very flat dessert tasted like a slightly moister version of a chocolate crème wafer cookie. The crepe/nutella combination wasn’t very special, and isn’t anything I would seek out again.
After trying nutella “French style”, I decided to move a little to the north and eat the spread on a Belgian waffle. This produced a chewier version of the crepe dessert – so the texture was different, but the overall taste was rather similar. Again, it was fine, but nothing to re-create.
From here, I decided to go for a sweeter base, and ate the nutella first on a small sponge cake cup, then on some crispy lady fingers. Of these two varieties, I preferred the nutella-and-sponge-cake combo – but neither one was really outstanding.
At this point I decided to shift gears and try nutella with some smoother companions. First up: vanilla pudding.
Then raspberry sorbet.
Then a softened frozen banana.
Of these three combinations, I liked the frozen banana/nutella pairing the best. (The raspberries overpowered the chocolate flavor, whereas the essence of the vanilla pudding got lost in the hazelnut spread.)
If nutella is good on a banana, it probably tastes good with other fruit… so I tried some nutella-stuffed strawberries. They were quite delicious, and my favorite nutella experience thus far.
As winter rolled on, I found myself wanting warmer foods – so I decided to do a (microwave) nutella s’more. While this confection lacked the smoky-char flavoring only a freshly roasted marshmallow can impart, the indoor version of this popular camping treat was still quite good – and a lot easier to make. (I.e., no bonfire required.)
A while later I saw some animal crackers in the pantry sitting next to the jar of nutella – and in my crazy imagination I immediately saw the animals march single file into the chocolate tub, Noah’s ark style.
At this point, I had consumed around half of the jar of the sweet spread – and was (am) starting to experience “nutella fatigue”. While I can think of still more new ways to consume nutella (on biscotti, with melted peanut butter/marshmallows/crisped rice cereal, on a croissant, with raisins, on ice cream, as part of a nutella-banana Panini, in the middle of French toast, stirred into hot oatmeal, blended with ricotta…), I made the executive decision to end the “great nutella experiment” while I was still ahead (i.e., before I developed an aversion to the stuff). I think I definitely fulfilled the spirit of item #80 – so I’m calling this task Done.
If anyone wants half a jar of nutella, just let me know – I’m happy to share. 🙂