I had Nutella on my toast this morning, which in itself is not a rare or remarkable thing. But it came from this wee pot Miriam brought back from her hotel in Berlin, and with it came a flood of happy food and travel nostalgia.
The first time I ever had Nutella was in Germany. I was about 13 and my father had decided to bring his parents and me and my sister and mother over for a holiday so we could see where my Grandpa’s family came from and where he grew up when they lived there. My Grandpa was actually born in the US, but his brother was born in Germany and they went back there to live in Lichtenfels for a while when he was young.
Anyway, the idea was for him to get to see it again one more time, and for my Grandma and all of us to see it for the first time. It was also the first time my sister and I had been out of the country, so there was the whole exciting business of passports and wondering what a trans-Atlantic flight would be like and trying to learn bits and pieces of German (Mom says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ first, of course, we were too young for ‘beer’, but it sounds the same anyway).
We spent 2 weeks buzzing around southern Germany in a Fiat minibus with the most uncomfortable hard seats I’d ever experienced in a car up til that point. We marveled at the speedy efficiency of the Autobahn. We almost instantly turned the German word for ‘exit’ into a fart joke. We stayed in small European hotels, the like of which don’t exist in the US and so are that much more novel, specifically to a 13-year-old suddenly experiencing The Simpsons and Walker, Texas Ranger overdubbed in German on the TV and meats and cheeses at breakfast.
And Nutella. Glorious, glorious Nutella. Chocolate for breakfast! How advanced these Europeans were. Every hotel we were in had it as standard. I specifically remember my Grandpa encouraging me to swipe a few of those wee pots in the morning for use later. I was a vegetarian at the time (I know, a teenage vegetarian in Germany – my poor parents) so I lived on pommes frites, afterthought side salads (bad), spaetzle (very good!), and afternoon car snacks of Wasa crispbread with said swiped Nutella smeared on it washed down with kirsch Capri Sun.
It’s curious that I have such vivid food memories of a trip on which I’d given myself limited menu options, but then the adventure of being in Europe for the first time, even while holding up my surly teenage grunge phase business of Totally Not Being Impressed, probably had a lot to do with that. Pretty much everything was new, food or not. Fanta! Milka bars! The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ on MTV Europe, 6 months before we ever heard it in the US!
Germany was also the first place I encountered the kiwi spoon. We went to the zoo in Köln during some sort of festival where there was all sorts of free stuff, including a Zespri booth pushing New Zealand kiwis. They were handing out kiwi halves with the little plastic spoons stuck in them. If you’ve never seen a kiwi spoon, they’ve got a pointy spoon at one side and a serrated edge on the other so you can cut your kiwi in half and scoff it with the same tool – there are even two different designs! Years later when I was in New Zealand with Scott, we got some in the grocery store. When they broke back in the UK, he was so devastated I wrote to Zespri and asked if I could buy some from them. Instead they sent a wee package of 6 of each type to me for free. How’s that for customer care? I still have a few of them. They’re pretty handy, as bits of plastic go.
But I digress. What I’m really getting at is how nice it is to be reminded of an entire experience, and of my Grandfather in general, by nothing more than a mini pot of Nutella with a German label. I tend to think of my Grandpa when I have Nutella anyway, but this may as well have been the very pot I slipped into my pocket nearly two decades ago as he slyly encouraged sugar-related mischief, as grandparents are wont to do.