How long we toiled—suffered! toiled and suffered!—how bitterly we toiled and suffered—and died!—under the pitiless yoke of plain peanut butter, cruelest and least forgiving of all the spreads. How fervently we yearned for chocolatey deliverance. We took to the rooftops of our humble mud-homes, blind with grief and thwarted snack-hope, to shake our dismal peanut-butter-slathered crackers at the yawning, empty night sky in heartbroken accusation, and cry out: "How long, Adonai? How loooooong?"
Oh—we didn't? Never did any of that? Huh. Never, you say. Never ever ever. Are you sure? Scroll back through your Twitter feed to make sure. No peanut butter yoke? No toiling? Not even any yearning? Look around—it doesn't even have to have been fervent yearning, just regular old yearning. No? None? Huh. That is weird, because lately the peanut butter and jelly aisle of your local supermarket is looking awfully chocolatey.
The trend began with Nutella. You can see the appeal: By dressing itself up as European "hazelnut" "spread"—essentially posing itself to the casual observer as an Italian hazelnut version of peanut butter, equivalent in all respects save flavor—Nutella gives health-conscious (or, appearance-of-health-consciousness-conscious, or appearance-of-not-being-a-grotesque-monster-shoveling-chocolate-cake-frosting-into-its-maw-by-the-spoonful-conscious, anyway) consumers cover for... well, for shoveling chocolate cake frosting into their maws by the spoonful. Because, c'mon, peanut butter's not exactly a celery stick and a B vitamin, either, but this shit is chocolate cake frosting.
In any event, between its sophisticated-seeming Euro-ness ("Italians have great taste in things!" we're accustomed to assuming, conveniently forgetting the previous entire fucking century) and the fact that it is cake frosting, it's no wonder Nutella eventually became something of a fad, and that the companies we already trust for their nut-butter-making expertise would try to horn in on a little bit of the sweet (God in Heaven, so fucking sweet) nut-spread-disguised chocolate cake frosting action. The shit's all over the place, now. There are even generic store brands. It's a little bit overwhelming, frankly, not least because you are completely incompetent.
So now you want to try some of this stuff, but how do you choose from among all the options? With a little help from the internet, of course. Here are four widely-available name-brand options; since the whole thing started with Nutella, that's where we'll start, too. Grab a spoon! A metaphorical spoon of enthusiasm for reading or whatever!
We need to take a moment to talk about Nutella's name, here. The important thing to know about Nutella's name is that, factually, it is the only word in any known language that has no correct pronunciation. To wit:
- Noo-TELL-a is obviously wrong (despite being the pronunciation used in the commercial in which the fake TV mom advocates for slathering this hazelnut cake frosting on your kids' breakfast toast, as though that is not tantamount to child abuse) for the simple reason that the word clearly takes its root from the word nut, which is not pronounced noot.
- Nuh-TELL-a is also pretty clearly wrong (despite being the pronunciation used in the other commercial in which the other fake TV mom tells you to pump your innocent children full of chocolate-flavored sugar paste at dawn and then send them out to terrorize the world with cranky shittiness), because it would seem to require the name to be spelled Nuttella, and also because it sounds stupid.
- NUT-ell-a ... I mean, for chrissakes, that's just goddamn ridiculous.
- Same goes for NOOT-ell-a. NOOT-ell-a sounds like something a doctor finds on your parietal lobe the day before she tells you that you are about to die. You probably would die if you had Nutella on your parietal lobe. That's not the point, and you fucking know it.
There is no correct way to say Nutella. This is why you should never refer to the stuff by its brand name, but instead call it "Weird Non-Newtonian Spackling Paste That We Have Silently Agreed To Pretend Tastes Like The Flavorless Calorie-Wad Known As The Hazelnut, Even Though It Is Clearly Chocolate-Flavored."
Nutella is outrageously sweet. Conservatively, I would estimate that a tablespoon of Nutella contains as much as 6,400 metric tons of sugar. Many people find this to be a winning trait in a nut-spread and are bumblebees. On the other hand, if, like many other people, you are concerned about the long-term effects of ingesting all that sugar, you might be well-advised to stick to more healthful dessert choices, such as drinking a half-gallon tankard of molasses, injecting granulated sugar directly into your heart, or literally just fucking lancing your pancreas with a harpoon, yanking it entirely out of your body, and lighting it on fire.
To be honest, I'm not totally sure what you're supposed to do with Nutella, other than to pile it on crêpes. Dip stuff in it? Spread it on crackers? Furtively scoop it out with your disgusting grubby fingers in the middle of the night? One thing's for sure: No matter what you put Nutella on, Wilford Brimley crashes through the wall of your home and slaps it out of your hands before you can eat it. He's old and diabetic, but he gets around, and he is dead serious about this shit.
Skippy Natural Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread is just dark-brown peanut butter. It contains precisely as much chocolate flavor as a photograph of a Hershey bar. The people at Hormel made this stuff by squirting some dark brown food coloring into a jar of peanut butter, and then carrying it down the candy aisle of a Walmart with the lid off in the hope that it would absorb some chocolatey vapors through the air. It is not chocolate, or even chocolatey. It is peanut butter.
Which, hey, there's nothing wrong with being peanut butter—but there is something kind of sad and desperate about a peanut butter that pretends to be a hip chocolatey nut spread like all the cool kids are. Skippy Natural Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread is the college-age dude who used to hang out in the back parking lot of your high school in the afternoon, revving the engine on his primer grey 1986 Toyota Tercel hatchback and flirting with 15-year-old girls: an untrustworthy Ecstasy dealer. Wait. No, that is not where that analogy was supposed to go. Shit. The point here is that this stuff does not taste like chocolate and you can make a half-decent but weird-looking PB & J with it, and also that if you make out with it, you will probably get herpes. Let's just move on.
This stuff is basically Nutella, only with a less bizarrely non-Newtonian texture, and an artificial-seeming "roasted" flavor that, weirdly, both improves it and makes it worse, in roughly equal measure. It's also noticeably saltier than Nutella, which is welcome, if only as a distraction from the hyperglycemic seizures you are having because you taste-tested four sugary chocolate-flavored nut-pastes in a single sitting. What I am saying here is that this stuff is tastier than its unpronounceable Euro uncle. Don't make a Jif Chocolate-flavored Hazelnut Spread-and-jelly sandwich, though, because that is some serious Bad News right there. Hoo boy.
Gotta say, this is really gonna simplify things for all those people out there who have been wasting their precious time dunking their Nutella sandwiches in their coffee all these years. Now you can have a chocolate-and-hazelnut-flavored-sandwich-spread sandwich with the coffee built right into it.
Jif Mocha Cappuccino-flavored Hazelnut Spread does indeed taste like coffee and chocolate (and hazelnut, too, insofar as it does not have what anyone would describe as "a very strong hazelnut flavor," and neither do hazelnuts, which are bullshit), and even has an occasional pleasing granularity between your teeth, as though there might be actual coffee grounds—or espresso powder, at least—mixed into the chocolate-flavored nut-butter. Either that, or a batch of it was contaminated with spider eggs, which, I mean, don't totally rule that out, either. It does not seem to contain any caffeine, which is probably just as well, since you're not going to have much use for enhanced alertness in your incipient diabetic coma.
Clearly you are not going to make a Jif Mocha Cappuccino-flavored Hazelnut Spread-and-jelly sandwich. The thing to do with this stuff is spread it on the kinds of foodstuffs—biscotti, a donut, and so on—that you would otherwise dunk in a cup of coffee if you were not grimly set upon achieving your own death.
So, which chocolatey nut-based spread should you choose? The rich texture and overpowering sweetness of Nutella, the progenitor of this nut-spread trend? The saltier, more user-friendly Jif version, or its exotic mocha sibling? The one that is obviously just a jar of peanut butter wearing a fake mustache? All have their merits. In the end, though, there can be only one best choice, and that is to...
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Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home. Peevishly correct his foolishness at firstname.lastname@example.org, or publicly and succinctly on Twitter @albertburneko. You can find lots more Foodspin at foodspin.deadspin.com.
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