Philip Hensher: Why Italians go nuts about Nutella

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Gianduia is an Italian regional speciality, liked by some people. Italians were forever mixing chocolate with odd things – pig’s blood is at the far end of culinary possibility.

Gianduia is an old-fashioned mixture of chocolate with hazelnut paste. In 1964, it was first marketed by the confectionary firm Ferrero under the name of Nutella. Since then, it has been closer to the heart of Italians than the San Remo song competition. But a bullet has been aimed directly at it.

In a story more familiar in its general outlines in Britain, perhaps, than in Italy, an EU directive has been found to threaten a cherished national food. The EU hopes to further healthy eating by forcing manufacturers to list calories, fat and salt levels on packaging. All foods which exceed certain levels of sugars, fat and salt would not be allowed to advertise, but would have to circulate in a samizdat fashion.

The plan might have been drawn up with Nutella specifically in mind. Rumours began to circulate that the EU was, in fact, planning to outlaw the product. But some of the comments coming from Italy suggest that Nutella is rather more than just a foodstuff. La Stampa spoke of “The Battle of Nutella”. The manufacturers spoke darkly of the EU’s unwarranted intervention in the most “intimate” areas of private life. In the intensity and solemnity of these comments, something more than chocolate-and-nut paste could be discerned.

If, like me, you don’t much like the stuff, the power it holds over Italians is hard to understand. And yet the power is undeniable, propelling Michele Ferrero to riches in excess of Berlusconi himself. It goes back to the childhood of the Italian male. For decades now, Italian mothers have kept their sons in check with the promise of Nutella if they are good, and the memory goes with them into adulthood. Mother-love in a jar of chocolatey stuff; to a nation of mummy’s boys, Nutella might as well be crack cocaine. Any hint that production might be briefly interrupted would lead to panic buying and stockpiling. They can’t do without it.

Well, the panic seems to have abated for the moment. The EU official whose weary job it is to issue rebuttals of such scare stories said that there was no plan to ban Nutella. And I really don’t know why Ferrero is worried. It’s honestly surprising that they bother to advertise at all: Nutella must sell itself, passing on from parent to child as a means of control buried in an assurance of undying chocolatey love. The threat has retreated, and somewhere, as I write, an accountant in Brescia, a lawyer in Rome, a plumber in Palermo is happily hunched over the third jar of the week, eating it with a spoon and thinking about mamma.

There’s more to men than cars and sport

Radio 5 Live has commissioned seven episodes of Men’s Hour, a radio programme that promises to do for men what Women’s Hour has done for women over the past 65 years or so. There will be an interview with a “bloke with emotional depth”, discussion of an abstruse subject such as “What moisturiser is Robert Mugabe using?”, a slot for a token woman and a Thought for the Gay.

It’s not exactly new. Radio 4 had a series in the 1990s along these lines, The Locker Room, and occasional online broadcasters have tried to address what they see as an imbalance. Whether there is any need for such a programme depends on your point of view. Some people might say that every hour in the world we live in is men’s hour. Is a designated slot for men to go on about themselves something the world is calling out for?

On the other hand, the sort of stuff that is explicitly designed for a male audience on radio and television generally starts and stops with cars and sport. Not that fascinating – in my widest acquaintance, I can think of about five men who are genuinely interested in such things. So there genuinely could be a place for a programme that addressed the concerns of men and of masculinity without talking down to the audience. At the moment such shows are restricted to the male equivalent of women’s features about cookery and needlecraft. If the first edition of Men’s Hour contains a feature about football or an expensively adorned internal-combustion engine, then we will know to turn off straight away. There’ll be another hour of male-oriented radio along in a minute, I dare say.

Reigning on my parade

We enjoyed Pride in London on Saturday. But heavens to Betsy, how the whole march is run by jobsworths these days. I find it hard to believe that 40 years ago, when the Gay Liberation Front first marched under the slogan “Gay is Good”, that they could have imagined it ending up like this. Well, I’ve been marching for 20 years, and I know it wasn’t like this until very recently.

Halfway through, we noticed a gap of a couple of hundred yards had opened up behind the gang we were marching with, and stood on one side of the road to wait until it livened up a bit. Immediately a surly mincer with a megaphone descended on us. No, we could not STAND THERE. We must keep on moving or LEAVE THE PARADE. Go behind the barriers IMMEDIATELY. No, you could not rejoin the parade at a later point. LEAVE THE PARADE NOW. You must wait until the end of the parade and THINK YOURSELF LUCKY.

Give some queens a megaphone and a spurious job title, and it all goes to their heads. It was a splendid demonstration of the truth that it is not absolute power that corrupts, but minimal. Nothing is more likely to bring out the inner Hitler than a clipboard and a single instruction. The power to tell people that they must GO BEHIND THE BARRIERS is, in the short run, much more heady than any of the promises Mephistopheles made to Faust.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Java Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

SAP Functional Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £45,000 - £55,000.

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Functional ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
George Osborne  

Blowing your pension was never a very sensible idea

Andreas Whittam Smith
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn