History of Nutella, the Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

Emily Mangini wrote . . . . . . . . .

Nutella’s squat, oddly shaped jar has become a culinary icon across the globe, thanks to the addictively rich and creamy chocolate-and-hazelnut spread housed within. But, while the marriage of chocolate and hazelnut may seem as natural as that of salt and pepper or bread and butter, its origin story isn’t nearly so simple. It begins with the spread’s progenitor, the chocolate-hazelnut treat called gianduia (also spelled “gianduja”).

The tale of gianduia’s birth is often splashed across product labels and woven into pop history accounts of related products, including Nutella. In large part, that’s because it’s a compelling story—one of wartime desperation, economic strife, and the triumph of one industry’s ingenuity. It starts in Turin, Italy, at the turn of the 19th century, and it’s also almost certainly rife with untruths.

What most historians can agree on is that by the early 1800s, Turin had long held the distinction of being Europe’s chocolate capital, its cacao-based products renowned as delicacies across the continent. But by 1806, its prominence was poised to collapse. Napoleon Bonaparte and his French Grande Armée were on the move, conquering Europe in the name of social enlightenment. Tensions between France and Britain had come to a head, culminating in a series of naval blockades and trade embargoes. In late fall, Napoleon enacted the Continental System, a sweeping blockade that halted all trade between the island kingdom and any country under the emperor’s thumb, including the patchwork of kingdoms and city-states that would soon be unified under the name “Italy.”

In the case of Turin, one particular change transformed its coveted chocolate industry. Britain, a dominant force in maritime trade, was a major vein in the flow of cacao between Mesoamerica and Europe; under the blockade, Turin found its main cacao source cut off.

From here, gianduia’s origin myth gets a bit more complicated. Many claim that, unable to exploit Britain’s access to cacao beans, Turin’s chocolatiers needed a quick solution to supplement their supply and stay in business. The surrounding area of Piedmont, with its abundant hazelnut trees, proved to be just the ticket. When ground up, the hazelnuts took on the texture of cocoa powder, meaning that the nuts could be used to stretch what cocoa was available into a thick, ganache-like confection. In this version of the story, Turin’s chocolatiers buoyed the local industry, harnessing their resourcefulness to create a brilliant new product—one that has persisted in popularity through the centuries.

As attractive as this narrative may be, there are reasons to call it into question. Some point out that at the time, chocolate was consumed in liquid form rather than in thick pastes or solid bars. Others argue that Turin chocolatiers would have lacked the powerful technology required to grind enough hazelnuts to make gianduia a cost-effective product on a large scale, let alone single-handedly save an entire industry.

While it’s true that chocolate was first introduced to North America and Europe as a Mesoamerican medicinal beverage, and that the cacao press—the machine that made solid chocolate readily available—wasn’t invented until 1828, there’s ample evidence that so-called “eating chocolate” was established in Europe by the mid-17th century. In The True History of Chocolate, Michael and Sophie Coe point to instances of culinary experimentation with chocolate in Italy that date back to the 1680s, and records of “eating chocolate” from 18th-century France. The Marquis de Sade, known for his love of sweets, wrote to his wife from prison in the early 1800s, imploring her to send care packages filled with chocolate treats: “…half pound boxes of chocolate pastilles, large chocolate biscuits, vanilla pastilles au chocolat, and chocolat en tablettes d’ordinaire [chocolate bars].”

But just because chocolate was available in more than just liquid form doesn’t mean that the Continental System resulted in the creation of gianduia, particularly given that virtually no primary sources link the two. More significant is the other oft-cited rebuttal to the legend**—the unlikelihood that technology available at the time could churn out enough of the new confection to save the Turin chocolatiers from the effects of their dwindling cacao supply.

If gianduia wasn’t born out of necessity, then what was the catalyst for its creation? “My take on Turin and the whole kingdom of Savoy is that it was entirely under the sway of France in the 18th and 19th centuries,” says Ken Albala, historian and director of the food studies program at the University of the Pacific in California. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you find the combination [of chocolate and hazelnuts] in France before Italy.” This influence makes sense, given Napoleon’s conquest of the region, and suggests that gianduia was produced at a slow and gradually increasing rate, at least in its early years. It’s likely that chocolatiers quietly released the chocolate-hazelnut blend, and that its growth in popularity was more of a slow boil than the explosion of success suggested by the prevailing narrative.

But, of course, a story that credits an invading force for a chocolate-confection-turned-regional-gem is not nearly as stirring as one that frames the chocolatiers as ingenious victors, who persevered in their trade in spite of the odds against them. And the motivation to reshape gianduia’s narrative only grew with time.

From Puppet to Candy: Gianduia Gets a Name

By the mid-19th century, Italy was in the throes of the Risorgimento, the contentious, decades-long fight to unify the peninsula’s states into a single kingdom. Italian nationalism was reaching a fever pitch, and revolutionary movement erupted across the soon-to-be nation. In Piedmont, which had seen an 1821 insurrection against its Austrian rulers, the atmosphere was uniquely ripe for patriotic myth-building. And it took the form of a character named Gianduia, a wine-guzzling, tricorn-hat-wearing, womanizing peasant.

Over the course of the 19th century, Gianduia had evolved from a traditional masked character in the Italian commedia dell’arte to a puppet, and then a pervasive political cartoon. His form was paraded across newspapers as a symbol of Turin, a jovial peasant mascot of sorts who represented the Piedmontese capital.

It was at the 1865 Turin Carnival, just four years after Italy’s official unification, that Gianduia’s name first became associated with the chocolate-hazelnut confection. There, candies said to resemble Gianduia’s tricorn hat were distributed at the Carnival festivities, possibly by someone dressed as the character. Though a number of chocolate companies, most notably Caffarel, claim to have invented these confections, no evidence exists to verify their claims. What is more broadly agreed upon is that the chocolate-and-hazelnut sweets took on the name gianduiotti at roughly this point in time. Naming the candy for the city’s most ubiquitous representative cemented it as a Turinese—and now, following unification, an Italian—creation. Gianduia has since become synonymous with the combination of chocolate and hazelnut, and variations on the name are used to refer to chocolates, spreads, and other confections.

War Strikes Again, and Nutella Is Born

After 90 years of producing their treats in relative peace, the chocolatiers of Turin faced a new period of uncertainty with the onset of World War II. As with Napoleon’s blockade, the onset of the war brought with it food rations, and the supply of cocoa was once again drastically limited. In 1946, Piedmontese pastry chef Pietro Ferrero, inspired by gianduiotti and his chocolatier forefathers, created a thick paste using hazelnuts, sugar, and what little cocoa was available. He shaped the paste into a loaf and named it “Giandujot.” But though its low proportion of expensive cocoa arose out of the cost-consciousness of the war years, Giandujot, so dense and thick that it had to be cut with a knife, was still too pricey for a mass audience.

In 1951, Ferrero revolutionized the industry with the first spreadable version of his sweet loaf: “La Supercrema.” According to a BBC interview with Ferrero’s grandson, Giovanni Ferrero, the spreadability of La Supercrema meant that “a small amount went a very long way, helping to break down the perception that chocolate was, as Giovanni puts it, ‘only for very special occasions and celebrations like Christmas and Easter.'”

The availability and affordability of La Supercrema turned the chocolate-hazelnut spread into a household staple throughout Italy. In 1961, Ferrero’s son, Michele, once again adjusted the recipe, adding palm oil and scaling it up for mass production. The new spread was rebranded as Nutella, and went on to become a common breakfast and snack item throughout Europe, touching down first in Asia and then the United States in the early 1980s. Nutella’s world domination would surely have turned Napoleon green with envy.

It’s rare that a jar of anything can embody two centuries of social, political, and historical change. But mixed with a touch of food lore under that white lid are Napoleon’s bravado (possibly, at least); the ingenuity of the old Turinese chocolatiers; and the creativity of their descendant Ferrero. Creamy, nutty, and sweet, Nutella and its chocolate-hazelnut brethren are war, progress, and industrialization. Each spoonful snuck from the jar, every dollop that drips from the folds of a warm crepe, pays homage to the events that shaped its journey. And that’s how it should be, because without those moments of strife and stress, our cupboards wouldn’t be the same.

Source: Serious Eat

Cherry Pancakes in Cinnamon Cream


4 oz all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup + 2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp melted butter or oil
3/4 tbsp kirsch


8 oz black cherries
1 tablespoon kirsch


caster sugar (for dusting)
1/3 cup double cream
pinch of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoon toasted almonds, chopped


  1. To make the batter, sift the floir with the salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Add the egg, yolk and kirsch. Add milk slowly, stirring all the time.
  2. When half of the milk has been added, stir in the melted butter and beat well until smooth.
  3. Add the remaining milk and leave to stand for 30 minutes before using. The batter should have the consistency of thin cream. If it is too thick, add a little extra milk.
  4. Stone the cherries, pour over 1 tablespoon kirsch, cover and leave for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
  6. Fry the pancakes. Put a tablespoon of cherries on each. Roll up pancakes, put them on a baking sheet and dust well with caster sugar.
  7. Heat pancakes through in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Place in a hot serving dish.
  8. Boil the cream with the cinnamon, pour this over the pancakes and scatter the almonds on top. Serve at once.

Source: Cooking with Eggs

Is Your Daily Dose of Citrus Interfering with Your Medications?

Katherine Zeratsky wrote . . . . . . . . .

Grapefruit and certain other citrus fruits, such as Seville oranges, can interfere with several kinds of prescription medications.

Don’t take these interactions lightly. Some can cause potentially dangerous health problems. If you take prescription medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medication interacts with grapefruit or other citrus products.

You may need to eliminate grapefruit products from your diet. Simply taking your medication and grapefruit product at different times doesn’t stop the interaction. Alternatively, you can ask your doctor if there’s a comparable medication you can take that doesn’t interact with grapefruit.

Problems arise because chemicals in the fruit can interfere with the enzymes that break down (metabolize) the medication in your digestive system. As a result, the medication may stay in your body for too short or too long a time. A medication that’s broken down too quickly won’t have time to work. On the other hand, a medication that stays in the body too long may build up to potentially dangerous levels.

The list of medications that can interact with grapefruit includes commonly prescribed medications that:

  • Fight infection
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Treat high blood pressure
  • Treat heart problems
  • Prevent organ rejection
  • Treat anxiety
  • Control seizures
  • Minimize motion sickness
  • Treat erectile dysfunction
  • Replace hormones
  • Reduce cough
  • Control pain

Another potential problem is that some foods and drinks may contain grapefruit but don’t say so in the name or on the ingredients list. For example, numerous citrus-flavored soft drinks contain grapefruit juice or grapefruit extract.

Play it safe with prescription drugs. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist when you get a new prescription if it interacts with any foods or other medicines. If the answer is yes, ask whether you need to eliminate that food from your diet.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Why We are Hard-wired to Worry, and What We can Do to Calm Down

James Carmody wrote . . . . . . . . .

A new year brings both hopes and anxieties. We want things to be better for ourselves and the people we love, but worry that they won’t be, and imagine some of the things that might stand in the way. More broadly, we might worry about who’s going to win the election, or even if our world will survive.

As it turns out, humans are wired to worry. Our brains are continually imagining futures that will meet our needs and things that could stand in the way of them. And sometimes any of those needs may be in conflict with each other.

Worry is when that vital planning gets the better of us and occupies our attention to no good effect. Tension, sleepless nights, preoccupation and distraction around those very people we care for, worry’s effects are endless. There are ways to tame it, however.

As a professor of medicine and population and quantitative health sciences, I’ve researched and taught mind-body principles to both physicians and patients. I’ve found that there are many methods of quieting the mind and that most of them draw on just a few straightforward principles. Understanding those can help in creatively practicing the techniques in your everyday life.

Our brains sabotage the happier present moment

We’ve all experienced moments of flow, times when our attention is just effortlessly absorbed in what we are doing. And studies carried out in real time confirm an increase in happiness when people can focus attention on what they are doing, rather than when their minds are wandering. It may seem odd then that we leave our minds to wander for something like half the day, despite the happiness cost.

The reason can be found in the activity of linked brain regions, such as the default mode network, that become active when our attention is not occupied with a task. These systems function in the background of consciousness, envisaging futures compatible with our needs and desires and planning how those might be brought about.

Human brains have evolved to do this automatically; planning for scarcity and other threats is important to ensure survival. But there’s a downside: anxiety. Studies have shown that some people prefer electric shocks to being left alone with their thoughts. Sound familiar?

Our background thinking is essential to operating in the world. It is sometimes the origin of our most creative images. We suffer from its unease when, unnoticed, it takes over the mental store.

Mindfulness, the practice of observing our mind’s activity, affords both real-time insight into this default feature of the mental operating system and a capacity to self-regulate it.

That is confirmed by studies showing increased attention regulation, working memory, and awareness of mind wandering that develop after only a couple of weeks of mindfulness training. Imaging studies, similarly, show that this kind of training reduces default mode activity and enriches neural connections that facilitate attentional and emotional self-regulation.

Evolution prioritizes survival over happiness

This default to planning is part of our evolutionary history. Its value is evident in the effortless persistence and universality with which it occurs. Mind-body programs like yoga and mindfulness are indicative of the yearning many people have to be in the happier present moment.

How we use our attention is central to our emotional well-being, and many mind-body programs are based on training our minds to be more skillful in this way.

Mindfulness training, for example, asks students to direct their attention to the sensations of breathing. And while that may seem easy, the mind resists, tenaciously. So, despite repeated resolve, a person finds that, within seconds, attention has effortlessly defaulted to planning daydreams.

Just recognizing this feature is progress.

In those moments when you do manage to notice these thoughts with some detachment, their dogged concern with past and future becomes clear. And planning’s semi-vigilant (“What could go wrong here?”) orientation also becomes clear.

We begin to notice that this hoping, comparing and regretting is often concerned with family and friends, job and money – themes of relationship, status and power that are central to the survival of tribal primates. All set against the background knowledge of our passing.

Our bodies take notice

Traditional meditation teachings attribute our everyday unease to the bodily tightening that naturally accompanies the possibility of loss, failure and unfulfilled dreams embedded within this narrative. It’s a tension that is often unnoticed in the midst of managing everyday demands, but its background discomfort sends us looking for relief in something more pleasant like a snack, a screen, a drink or a drug.

Mindfulness makes us more aware of these preoccupations and reorients attention to the senses. These, by their nature, are oriented to the present – hence the almost clichéd “being in the moment” idiom.

So, when you notice yourself tense and preoccupied with anxious thoughts, try shifting your attention to the sensations of your breathing, wherever you notice it in your body. Bodily tension naturally dissipates with the shift in focus, and a feeling of greater calm follows. Don’t expect attention to stay there; it won’t. Just notice that attention goes back to worries, and gently return it to breathing.

Try it for just a couple of minutes.

Other mind-body programs use similar principles

It would be nearly impossible to design studies comparing all the techniques that cultivate mindfulness. But my more than four decades experience as a practitioner, clinician and researcher of several popular mind-body programs suggests that most techniques use similar principles to recover the present moment.

Yoga and tai chi, for example, direct attention to the flow of sensations accompanying the sequence of movements. In contrast, systems such as cognitive therapy, self-compassion, prayer and visualization counter the ambient narrative’s unsettling tone with more reassuring thoughts and images.

Just a little practice makes this universal mental tendency, and your ability to shift it, more apparent in the midst of activities. The reduced arousal that results means that stress-related hormones dissipate, allowing feel-good ones like serotonin and dopamine to be restored in the brain as the happier here and now becomes woven into the fabric of everyday life.

Source : The Conversation

Heart Disease May Up Risk of Kidney Failure

Heart disease may increase your odds for kidney failure, a new study finds.

“Individuals with a history of cardiovascular disease should be recognized as a high-risk population for kidney failure,” said study leader Dr. Junichi Ishigami, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“Physicians should be aware of cardiovascular disease as an important risk condition, and thereby minimize treatments that are toxic to the kidneys in such individuals,” Ishigami said in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology.

The study of more than 9,000 people found those suffering from heart failure, the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation, coronary heart disease and stroke all have a greater risk of developing kidney failure.

For heart failure, the risk for kidney failure was more than 11 times higher, compared with those without heart disease.

None of the study participants had heart disease at the start of the study. Over a median follow-up of nearly 18 years, 1,270 were hospitalized with heart failure, 1,300 with atrial fibrillation, 700 with coronary heart disease, and 600 with stroke. Among these patients, 210 developed kidney failure.

The report was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Source: HealthDay

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