Ah, Nutella. Now the subject of endless internet memes, a heavenly salve to taste buds the world over. Every time I open the jar and am hit by the heady scent of decadent ambrosia, powerful sense memory swirls me back to Italy.
Long before it was available in your local chain grocery store, my first experience was 20-some years ago while we were in Italy visiting my father's family. I had never heard of this treat, and I don't know for sure if I had ever had a hazelnut yet in my young life.
Sitting in Zia Gina's kitchen, bare feet brushing the cool marble tile, I watched as my aunt spread the Nutella on a little biscuit (similar to a Nilla wafer) and pushed it my way. Certainly it smelled good and was obviously some kind of chocolate, which I was totally down with. I had no idea how much soul-cuddling happiness could come from any victual until I took that first bite.
Oh. My. God. I was hooked. Who can argue with the silken texture, the depth from the hazelnuts, and the almost smoky quality from the cocoa? I think I ate Nutella almost every morning for the two weeks we stayed at my aunt and uncle's home, indulged generously by parents who would ordinarily never let me breakfast on something so indulgent at home.
For years Nutella was something obtained rarely, usually at Harry's or Fresh Market, but not reliably. In recent years it has boomed, and I am simultaneously grateful for and concerned by that availability. It's so easy to use it in everything: stir a bit into coffee, try any one of thousands of Nutella-based recipes, or go classic with a Nilla-esque biscuit.
Instead, I buy the occasional jar (accept NO imitations!), and will indulge in in the elegant simplicity of one heavily loaded spoonful. As that first nibble gently melts on my taste buds, I can almost hear my aunt and cousin's raucous voices echoing up the atrium and feel the warm summer breeze wafting by. Buonissimo!