A Long Creamy Friendship

I’m unable to make a choice.  Possibly, no, definitely, the best two spreads ever created.  Naturally for me, each associated with the two magnificent countries in my life.  Of course Nutella is Italy.  I know, I know, it is now made in Canada, it’s an international brand, a citizen of the world, and it was picturepopular in all the European circles, not just Italy, even when I was growing up there.  But it was born in Italy, my friends, just like yours truly.  Ferrero dreamed up this exquisite concoction of chocolate and ground hazelnuts, called it supercrema and introduced it to the country.  It spread like wildfire because, well, it waswildfire, ecco.  But I’m not interested in giving you the history of this amazing delight, though it sure flavored the history of my childhood.  I don’t remember ever not seeing a jar of it in my mother’s pantry.  It was the afternoon merendina, a quick snack spread on a slice of crusty bread, never in a sandwich.  It was the filling of a simple homemade cake, it was a butter cookie dipped in it.  It was the secret spoonful in the late afternoon, when the kitchen was unattended, and you could go back for seconds (always), then quickly wash off the telltale spoons, so it never happened.  There were imitations of Nutella, of course, including the enticing cioccolata bianca, the white chocolate spread that goes in and out of popularity, sometimes in the two-flavor jar, seductively black and white.  I always liked white chocolate, by the way, I find its flavor soothingly delectable, though it needs to be of extremely high quality.  And they were all right, those dual-flavor creams, even desirable, but…they were not Nutella.  Enter peanut butter.  Far-removed American relatives would occasionally appear at our front door in Naples, during their roots-searching summer vacations, and they always came bearing a jar of Skippy.  A strange, suspicious color, the creamy content appeared to us, foreign and somewhat odd-smelling.  But it took one tentative taste, just one, and we were in love.  Nothing like it in the world, uniquely scrumptious, rightfully decadent, never enough.  That jar would be scraped clean within a couple of days, slathered thick on thick slices of bread, or simply spooned out (me), building a small pile of nearly spotless teaspoons in the kitchen sink.  The American Nutella, we called it, the symbol of the mythical land on the other side of the ocean, where even the sidewalks moved, and pedestrians just stood still and were carried to their destination (not kidding, this is one of the stories I had heard when I was a child, mesmerized as I was by everything American.  Of course now I know they were talking about those moving walkways they have in pictureairports, which still didn’t exist in Italy).  Sure, American peanut butter, like Nutella, was copied and imitated, was even produced in Italy, called burro or crema di arachidi, but it never even came close to the real thing.  They lack ‘the touch’ in Italy, sorry to say.  But maybe it’s for the best: peanut butter is an American institution and such it should remain, a symbol of the little things that define a culture.  So I bring it to Italy, every time I go, large caramel-hued jars of Skippy (still my favorite), which sure weigh in my luggage but that spawn instant smiles upon arrival.  Seductively smooth, dark, soft, luxurious, silky Italian Nutella, sitting comfortably next to a generous jar of thick, velvety, nutty beige, unapologetically buttery-rich, all-American peanut butter.  Meant to stand harmoniously side by side, enjoyed individually (no, not to be blended, tried that, both having seriously assertive tastes), two exceptional masterworks of my two beloved countries.

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