Sweet Memories Of Nut Goodies Gone By

It's easy to find a Milky Way or a Mounds bar. They're made by mega-candy manufacturers and are everywhere. But there are still some small regional candy companies making the snacks we remember from childhood. The Pearson Candy Company in St. Paul, Minn., celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Unfortunately, candy is not one of the puzzle prizes, but it is the subject of our next segment. It's not about Milky Ways or Mounds bars, they are made by mega manufacturers and are everywhere. We are talking about the small regional candy companies that still make the treats we remember from childhood. The Pearson Candy Company in St. Paul, Minnesota celebrates its 100th birthday this year - and WEEKEND EDITION food commentator Bonny Wolf has some sweet memories.

BONNY WOLF: Nut Goodies - these two words send me right back to the public warming house at a frozen Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, where you could rest your ice skates on the sawdust floor in front of a roaring potbellied stove and buy a Nut Goodie candy bar - to have with your hot cocoa. My childhood friend Kate has the exact same memory. That's because Nut Goodies from Pearson's Candy Company were a huge part of our childhood. I know, you've never heard of them.

Outside of Minnesota, distribution was minimal. Outside the upper Midwest, it was non-existent. Nut Goodies are to Minnesota what Goldenberg's Peanut Chews are to Pennsylvania. Baby boomers remember these regional candies. Walnut Crush, Payday, Sugar Daddy, Bonomos Turkish Taffy, each are to someone, the best candy ever made. Some brands remained regional, some went national and many went kaput. A lot of candy was made in Minnesota in the first half of the 20th century, including the amazing Seven Up Bar. Seven separate fillings all covered in chocolate. They are no more.

The Nut Goodie, though, has persevered. Pearson's introduced their first candy bar in 1912. It was a premium five cent bar - blob, really - with a creamy maple center covered with milk chocolate and unsalted Virginia peanuts. The secret ingredient was an inadvertent invention of another Minnesota candymaker, who accidentally put too much egg white into his work. The Minnesota nougat was born, and Pearson's adopted it for Nut Goodies. The 70s and 80s were rocky years for the company. Pearson's was sold to outsiders who didn't revere the products like the descendants of the Swedish brothers who started the company in 1909.

The new owners changed the recipe. They changed the packaging. No one recognized the Nut Goodie wrapped in earth tones. The brand went downhill. In 1985, two employees bought the company and brought it back from the brink. They put everything back as it was. The Nut Goodie is once again dressed in its familiar green, red and white bull's-eye wrapper. A spokesman for Pearson's says Nut Goodies have a cult following. Nut Goodie fans are fanatics. A friend put them in goodie bags for her daughter's wedding.

People bring home boxloads when they visit from out of town. Good friends send emergency supplies. Best of all, you can get the same Nut Goodies you remember from childhood - online.

HANSEN: Bonny Wolf edits NPR's "Kitchen Window" and is the author of "Talking with My Mouth Full."

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