But hazelnut did return once more, this time to play a vital role during World War II. Food rationing was in full effect across Europe, and not only was chocolate insanely expensive -- it was also virtually impossible to find. It wasn't until a pastry baker named Pietro Ferrero (sounds familiar, doesn't it?) with Piedmontese roots decided to incorporate hazelnuts into his craft. He created a paste -- predominantly consisting of blended hazelnut, and a touch of chocolate -- and called it Pasta Gianduja, a riff on the original name from the Napoleonic Era. Its thicker consistency made it easy to cut into loaf-like slices, which he then wrapped in foil and distributed in the streets. It was popular amongst mothers, who would serve it between two slices of bread, in a sandwich-like treat for their children. Unsurprisingly, the kids ditched the bread and went straight for the chocolate in between.
Ferrero had the thought: Why not make the treacly substance creamier, so it could be spread more easily (and more difficult to divorce from the actual sustenance of the meal) on bread? He altered the recipe, and called it Supercrema Gianduja. While popular, the name was a mouthful, and was later changed in 1964 to something more approachable: "Nutella." It became an Italian staple, and it has been ever since.
So the next time you look in your pantry and find that ol' jar, with its cheery, lowercase typeface and iconic image of a well-smeared slice of bread, remember this: If not for Europe's lengthy history of bloodshed and geopolitical conflict, a short-statured Frenchman, and one resourceful Italian pastry chef, your go-to snack wouldn't exist. Be thankful, and grab a spoon -- if you don't polish it off now, your roommate totally will when you're not looking.