The New Nutella

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My friends once told me that if I were to be any country in the world, I would be Belgium. I personally saw myself as more of a Netherlands, but after all of them unanimously agreed I was Belgium, I began to see their point.

Belgium just gets me. It’s a tiny country, I’m 5’1″. It has delicious chocolate. I love delicious chocolate. Belgians also make this liège waffle, which is perfect and delicious and chewy with crunchy pearls of sugar. And Belgium created Nutella, which I love dearly.

Belgium also has a beautiful and almost impenetrable forest, the Ardennes. (Of course, the Germans used it in both world wars to successfully launch attacks on France. Clearly, Europe learned its lessons.) Belgium also swore neutrality in both world wars, which I’ve always admired. World War I began for such ridiculous reasons, and World War II was, in my eyes, simply a continuation.

And Belgium is torn between two languages and two cultures, that of the Flemish and the Walloons. As a Chinese-American, I can understand the difficulties of straddling two cultures. Sometimes there is no compromise between the two, and I’m left in some sort of limbo. For example, paying the check is a fight for honor in Chinese culture, whereas in America, I feel like there’s always one person trying to avoid paying his full share. I end up embarrassed and upset either way.

Sometimes, you can’t win. But then sometimes, something comes along so winning and wonderful that all the bad just melts away. Once again, I owe it to Belgium. Thank you, oh great Belgian people, for discovering that speculoos could be made into a delicious, slightly spiced, crunchy yet creamy spread. But also, curse you, oh terrible Belgian people, for creating a substance that I literally cannot stop eating. It tastes good on bread, it tastes good just licked off a spoon, hell, it even makes oatmeal taste good.

Belgium, you’re the foodie of Europe and I love you for it. Thank you for creating so many delicious sweets and spreads, and despite all your political complications, I still think you’re a pretty cool place.

Then again, I would probably say anything for a lifetime supply of speculoos. You think I’m joking? As the Chinese would say, 我不是开玩笑。

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Nutella-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I can still remember the first time I ever had Nutella.

I was in sixth grade, attending what amounted to summer school (what can I say, I’m Asian), and my French teacher brought in délicatesses françaises that she had purchased directly from France. It was my first time experiencing soft cheese spreads, real French chocolate, and of course, Nutella.

Believe it or not kids, when I was young, you couldn’t just buy Nutella from the supermarket. It was a specialty item. Only one girl had ever had it before. When she squealed with excitement, I wondered how some nut-based spread could inspire more reaction than the spread of pain chocolat and fruit tarts.

Anyways, I calmly spread a dollop of Nutella onto my baguette, placed it in my mouth, and experienced a revelation. Because of this one French class, because of that bite of Nutella, I began my delicious descent into food snobbery.

Okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But Nutella is worth the adulation. And so are these cookies, chewy chocolate chip cookies with a sprinkle of salt and a gooey Nutella center.

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