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The holy trininty of hazelnut spreads – Nutella, Nudossi & Nusspli

Thanks to the necessity of store-brand knock-offs, there are infinite numbers of chocolatey hazelnut spreads in Germany (and beyond) these days. Some are more hazelnutty, others are more chocolatey and some are just a cloying goo that begs the question of why they were ever produced (usually served at downmarket hotels and corporate breakfast buffets). But for me, only three hazelnut spreads have made it into the canon of hazelnut spreads – Nutella, Nudossi and Nusspli. The complexities of familial politics mean that only Nutella ever lands on our table but, thanks to this blogpost, we will now, for a time, also have the other two. And by “complexities” I mean “my children’s preference”. Though it rarely shows up on list of things that are über-German, Nutella is as much a part of the German experience as airing out a room, Oktoberfest and white asparagus. If there’s no hazelnut spread on the breakfast table, then you can be sure it’s not an authentic German breakfast.

Hazelnut spreads – Nutella

Nutella is the undisputed king, nay, emperor of hazelnut spreads, if only because Nutella invented Nutella, which later became known as hazelnut spreads. In post-war Europe, chocolate was hard to come by so Pietro Ferrerro threw in a little hazelnut and first created a hazelnutty loaf that his son would refine into Nutella in the ‘60s. Or at least that’s the way Nutella tells it. I first encountered Nutella on my first-ever morning in Germany and, after my first taste, wondered why anyone would ever live anywhere else. For years I thought the Germans had invented Nutella, and I acted as a Nutella evangelical. It was in my role as Nutella evangelic that I discovered a funny phenomenon – every North America Nutella lover I met thought it was invented in whatever country they first encountered it. People claimed it was invented by the French, the Danish and even the Czechs. At the time, I argued that it was invented by the Germans. Everyone was wrong!

We all now know it’s from Italy, like so many good things. Sometimes I think that country has so much goodness that they have to occasionally elect odd governments just to even out their reputation. Good on indulgence, bad in politics, or something.

Hazelnut spreads – Nudossi

For a brief period I once dated a woman who grew up in East Germany and she introduced me to Nudossi. “It’s the East German Nutella!” she said. She loved it as a kid and no other hazelnut spreads were allowed on her breakfast table. I didn’t argue, though I found it a bit oily. I’ve bought it occasionally since and didn’t think much about it. But it turns out Nudossi has an interesting post-Berlin Wall history that serves as a warning to be careful what you joke about – a lesson I wish I’d learned earlier. I once worked for a fast-growing publisher in Denver and joked during a staff meeting that we’d soon have enough people to field a softball team. Two weeks later I was on the pitching mound. My brother also once joked at a Christmas party that if his Boulder, Colorado software company wanted to expand to Europe, he was their man. He now lives in Amsterdam.

Anyway, a guy named Karl-Heinz Hartmann bought a factory in Radebeul, near Dresden, to produce Stollen (a marzipany Christmas cake) and during a press conference about his plans, a reporter asked him if the factory wasn’t the place where Nudossi had been produced. “Of course,” he said. “And it’ll be back.” He was just joking, according to Die Zeit. But he made good on the joke (like me on the softball diamond and my brother and his wooden clogs). The company has had some hiccups but is now successful – Nudossi supposedly has twice as much hazelnut as Nutella and the company even makes a non-palm-oil version.

Nudossi was first produced in 1970, if Wikipedia can be believed, again because of the lack of cacao in East Germany. Production ended temporarily in 1994 when Vadossi, its manufacturer, went bankrupt. The rights to the name were originally picked up by regional broadcaster MDR, but Hartmann was able to get them back after he made that prophetic joke.

Hazelnut spreads – Nusspli

When I was an exchange student, my host family swore by Nusspli. You would think they’d never heard of Nutella (and lord knows if back then, when the Wall was still up, if you could even get Nudossi in the West). To me, it tastes more hazelnutty. At the time, I thought this was why Nusspli was the hazelnut-spread-of-choice in their home but in researching this article I think it might be regional – Zentis, which makes the stuff, is based in Aachen and we were just a short car trip from the place. Like Nudossi, Nusspli didn’t appear until the 70s, along with Kraftwerk and the VW Golf (which was called the Rabbit in the US).

Great, now I’m hungry.

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Nutella and peanut butter: The battle

Settle an old argument for me. My wife and I have fought about this since our youngest was a baby. It’s become a dispute bigger than the East Coast/West Coast beef in American rap or whether Didi Hallervorden or Fips Asmussen wrote the first-ever German one-liner. Think Kramer vs. Kramer.

It’s important I get this settled today because it’s our 13th wedding anniversary.

Nutella, peanut butter.
I know it’s my name, not Nutella but we all know what it is. Plus, cool that my name is on a Nutella jar.

It started when our first kid was just a year old. My wife offered her a Nutella-laden spot of Brötchen (bread roll).

“What are you doing?” I demanded. “Do you want to get her hooked on chocolate at this early of an age?”

My statement seemed to puzzle my wife. She looked at me as though I had suddenly turned into a cloud of semi-transparent gas that was whispering commands to her in a language never before heard in this solar system.  She didn’t know whether to laugh at the discovery of a talking gaseous mass or cry because she was obviously hallucinating.

“It’s just Nutella,” she said. “I’ve eaten it my entire life and look at me.” I don’t actually know if she said that “look at me” bit but it’s what I always hear when we talk food because I’m clearly the American in the relationship, if you know what I mean. I’m overweight, is what I’m saying.

She’s obviously the European.

“It’s chocolate and that’s a baby!” I hollered. Despite insisting that my kids carry both a blue and a red passport, I’ve inwardly always hoped that they would adopt their mother’s eating habits but get everything else from me. On that day, the half a square centimeter of Brötchen with a drop of Nutella was about to ruin that.

“It’s Nutella and I’ve eaten it my whole life (and look at me),” she said again. Then she leaned into her wife-of-an-American toolbox and said: “Plus, you were giving her peanut butter yesterday and there’s no difference.”

Which is where you come in. Have you ever heard anything so absurd? Me neither.

Nutella and peanut butter are in different galaxies. Peanut butter in its purest form is crushed peanuts – straight from the earth – mixed with a dash of salt. Ok, you might mix in some butter and two dashes of salt and the peanuts are actually roasted but that’s it. It’s food so pure Adam and Eve probably dined on it before partaking in a pomegranate. Neanderthals maybe even ate peanut butter and they weren’t capable of sin because all of that hadn’t been invented yet.

Peanut butter is pure and natural.

Nutella, on the other hand, was invented by an industrialized society trying to trick people into believing hazelnuts were chocolate. It worked! Nutella tastes great! But it’s a chocolate made by heavy machinery and should only be consumed for dessert or as a treat. Heavy machinery is nothing for babies or the main course.

I tolerate it on the breakfast table because I know an entire country would revolt if I expressed distaste but I don’t really believe that anyone – not even Germans – would believe that it’s the same thing as peanut butter.

“Honey,” I now often tell my daughter, “maybe one Brötchen half with Nutella is enough.” She’ll be a teenager soon but the Nutella poisoning took hold. She loves the stuff.

My wife will scowl at me across the breakfast table.

“So you get to have two or three Brötchen halves covered in peanut butter but she only gets to have a half with Nutella?”

It’s a wonder we’re still married.

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The Nutella pizza

After about 15 years in-country, I discovered yet another magical corner of Germany: The Nutella pizza. It happened after spontaneously hitting one of our favorite pizza joints in a Berlin neighborhood that might be Kreuzberg, Schöneberg or Tiergarten but is all parts great (I’m going to respect its privacy by just not checking).

“Ok,” I said to my fellow diners, who were comprised of a 9-year-old, a 10-year-old and my wife (age withheld). “Are we done? Can we go?”

My daughter picked up an errant Pizza Klub menu, stained by previous diners, and pointed at the thing she’d been waiting to point at the whole meal: Nutella pizza.

Nutella pizza
The actual Nutella pizza.

Angels began singing. Cloudy skies parted and a non-denominational spiritual of indeterminate sex spoke, making it clear we were ordering the Nutella pizza.

People seem to always give credit for Nutella to the country in which they first encounter it. Like a moustachioed turn-of-the-century hipster sampling Frites in Paris and making an incorrect assumption. I could google “Nutella history” and reword Ferrerro (Nutella’s owner) PR copy or copy and paste a Wikipedia entry but this post isn’t about Nutella’s origin story, it’s about my Nutella origin story. (And it’s 2016, you can do the googling yourself).

My first Nutella

I first encountered Nutella on my first-ever morning in Germany, back when the Kaisers still roamed the earth and Weimar was a town, not a historical period. After my guest parents taught me how to slice open a Brötchen and smear on Nutella (with butter, a practice I no longer follow), I figured they were allowing me a rare German treat because they were new guest parents and it was my first morning in Germany.

I mean, who has chocolate for breakfast? Unless it’s in a donut, of course.

But it wasn’t a special treat. I quickly came to realize that Nutella is a staple of the German diet behind Kartoffeln, Wurst and Weltschmerz. It’s always on the breakfast table, usually on a tray next to sugar beet syrup (Zuckerrübensyrup) and a jar of jelly last used during the Kohl administration.

I’m grateful to the Gehrings of Oldenburg for this introduction.

However, Nutella was one of the first child-rearing fights between my wife and I: She wanted to allow the children to have it while they were still in the womb but I argued it might give them too much of a taste for chocolate.

“Peanut butter, on the other hand,” I said.

Thanks, Pizza Klub

“It’s no different!” she claimed.

We all know she was wrong.

But by introducing them to Nutella so early, my daughter (and Pizza Klub) introduced me to the Nutella pizza.

So somehow my wife was right.

 

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