On a recent morning, I walked through downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market — cortado from G&B in one hand; in the other, a cloth bag holding, among other things, a half-empty jar of Nutella and a spoon. I wanted to buy some bread, and at Clark Street Bread, baker-owner Zack Hall, his clogs covered with flour, sold me a baguette. It was still warm, so out came the Nutella, a spoon and a camera. I broke some bread. Spread some Nutella. Took some pictures.
Because Michele Ferrero, the Italian who invented Nutella, had died on Valentine's Day. He was the richest man in Italy, and he ranked 22nd on Forbes' latest list of billionaires (net worth $26.5 billion). He was 89 — perhaps proving, to those who think about such things, that chocolate really is good for you, at least if it's leavened with nuts, cocoa, sugar, skim milk, oil and a few other flavorings and emulsifiers.
As I gave Hall some of his own bread spread with Nutella, a young family walked by. How much was the bread? Did Hall sell Nutella? Could the kid have a Nutella sandwich?
Sure, although Hall sold neither Nutella nor actual sandwiches, so I made one and passed it on. Why was I making Nutella sandwiches? Because famous chocolatier Michele Ferrero had died on Valentine's Day. Yes, Valentine's Day. No, we shouldn't be laughing, but then maybe he of all people would have appreciated that.
What made Ferrero a very rich man was the giant empire of confections he ran, one that included Kinder chocolates, Tic Tacs and Ferrero-Rocher candies.
According to the Daily Mail, as of World Nutella Day 2015, one jar of Nutella is sold every 2.5 seconds worldwide. And yes, World Nutella Day is real: It's celebrated on Feb. 5. You might want to mark your calendars now, and consider syncing it with both Valentine's Day and the anniversary of Ferrero's death. Unless you want an excuse to eat Nutella for multiple days instead of one, which of course you might.
It's worth noting, if you're not among the initiates, that Nutella is not just chocolate-y stuff in a jar. Imagine something halfway between bad peanut butter, half-melted Valrhona and meth.
The origins of Nutella date to 1946 and to Pietro Ferrero, Michele's father, who owned a bakery in Alba, Italy. Pietro began grinding the hazelnuts that were plentiful in the Piedmont region to extend his cocoa supply. It was after the war, you see, and kids needed a cheap, relatively wholesome breakfast. (They still do.)
Now, jars of Nutella are like footprints. At my new desk, on top of a stack of baking books. At my boyfriend's house, hidden in my daughter's eighth-grade locker. In pastry chef Sherry Yard's office, doubtless — maybe even inside a retro cookie jar. Somewhere in chef Alain Giraud's Palisades restaurant or in his home, or maybe forgotten under the passenger seat of his car. In half the pastry kitchens of Los Angeles. In half the kitchens, who knows, of the world.
So raise a sandwich — or maybe a spoon. Nutella forever.
Because taking pictures of food is almost as much fun as eating it, on Instagram @ascattergood.