THE RECIPE BOX - Candy is for Halloween - and for health, according to Pearl

THE RECIPE BOX - Candy is for Halloween - and for health, according to Pearl

NORTH SMITHFIELD - You can't miss the building for Pearl's Candy & Nuts as you pass by it on Eddie Dowling Highway, but have you ever stopped in? My curiosity began when a nice lady named Bev Bedard shared her recipe for peanut brittle with me for The Valley Breeze last Christmas.

Bev mentioned that she only used raw peanuts, and the only place she bought them was at Pearl's. Fast forward to this week when I finally stopped into the store on a whim. I wanted to see if there was a recipe to be found there. I met Pearl, the owner, and we instantly began to chat.

"I've been in the candy business since I was a little kid," Pearl said as she handed me a warm piece of pie her daughter had sent up from Kentucky. Pearl's grandfather, Louis, owned a well known candy store in Lawrence, Mass., where he sold cigars, novelties and jokes - but he was most known for his candy as the location was on a block with three movie theaters, Pearl said.

Her dad, Leonard, eventually opened a candy store of his own about 10 miles north of his dad's, in Salem, N.H., she said. The advantage was that he was able to retail there seven days a week. He also had the benefit of familiarity with the family name that his father had built.

Over the span of her childhood, Pearl was involved in some capacity in the candy business, first helping out as a child and later working in her dad's store in her high school years. She'd move on to try many different types of jobs, from restaurants, to the insurance business, to making contact lenses. She met her husband in between and they had two children.

Finally she went to her dad and said, "I'm ready." He'd always left the offer open for her to come back into the family business. She later opened her own store in North Smithfield after he showed her this location. It was formerly called The Nut Factory. She liked what she saw and she's been here since 1993.

The building is both inviting and intriguing with its artistic colors and candies adorning the outside. The two front doors are smothered in jelly bean designs and the entrance is a bit hard to spot at first. The mural-style painting was done by a local artist named Ron Deziel, from Woonsocket. "He painted the arch (L'Arc de Triumph) display for the Woonsocket 125th celebration," Pearl said.

Originally he was to paint her building red and white. The very day he was supposed to begin painting, the McDonald's building next door had been painted in the same colors overnight. Now Pearl felt that she had to do something else, something different, and Ron gave the building the personality it deserved.

I was immediately taken back in time with a nostalgic trip down candy lane: Boston baked beans, fireballs, hot tamales, satellite wafers - we used to call them spaceships - wax lips, candy cigarettes, root beer barrels, gold nuggets, gold coins and Bit O' Honey. You name it, Pearl's has it.

What surprised me was that there was so much more. Each wall is neatly shelved with a theme. The gummy wall, the wall of licorice, the hard candy and mint wall, the chocolate case, and then my favorite - the dried fruit and nut wall. No pun intended, there are nuts for every occasion.

Real pistachios from Turkey and pumpkin seeds in every form: in the shell, shelled, salted, unsalted, and Pepitas, the very center of the pumpkin seed, which Pearl said is good for men's prostate.

"Brazil nuts are good for selenium, a mood elevator, and cell protector," she said. "And these pignoli nuts (pine) are delicious when you put them in a Thanksgiving stuffing," she said.

The nuts are roasted on premises, said Pearl, and offer a lot of health benefits, as do the dried fruits. "This crystallized ginger is used to help nausea," Pearl said. Pregnant women suffering from morning sickness and chemotherapy patients find it helps, she said.

She apologized for not having a recipe to share.

"I'm a mother who was always working."

Yet down each aisle of her store she had great ideas. "Licorice can help with digestion, but can be a problem for people with serious high blood pressure," she said.

I was delighted by the dried fruits and packages of blends of fruits and nuts.

Wow, I thought to myself, I've been avoiding this place because I was afraid it would be all about temptation and bad for my diet, but there are so many healthy snacks - fruits and nuts - and I was wrong.

There are beautiful dried strawberries, papaya spears and pineapple rings. And I even found a dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free chocolate bar for my grandson C.J., who has many food allergies.

The mints are helpful for digestion, and the fruit flavored sour balls, due to their citrus, are good for dry throat. "I have truckers who come in to purchase the espresso coffee bean candies; they'll keep you awake," Pearl said.

"People use the gummy candies to infuse with vodka," she said. But that's just for grown-ups. There are handmade pinatas that can be pre-ordered in various characters, along with the melting Merckens chocolate discs and wedding favors and candy decor, specialty chocolates, secret Santa gifts and more.

The nicest part is how at home Pearl and her staff will make you feel. And the prices are fantastic. They are there to help you and it's obvious they love their work. The chocolate fruit bowl recipe is as simple as it sounds. I will definitely be trying this the next time I have a dinner party.

Pearl's Candy and Nuts is open seven days a week, most days from 9:30 a.m. until the early evening hours, and on Sundays from noon until 5 p.m. Reach them at 401-769-1166. Don't be surprised when you visit if Pearl asks, "What are you buying that for?" and then offers some of her years' worth of expertise.


Sweet Halloween Treats The Candy Man

Ingredients:

1 Twix bar, in wrapper

4 pkg. Smarties candies

1 lollipop

seasonal stickers, or wiggly eyes

hot glue gun

(makes 1 Halloween man)

Directions:

1. At each of the 4 corners of the wrapped Twix bar place a Smarties candy and hot glue (wrapper to wrapper) for arms and legs.

2. Place the lollipop (stick lying underneath the Twix) with the round part positioned to look like the head. Then glue to the Twix.

3. Add stickers to lollipop to create a face. Kids will Enjoy!

Witches' Hats

Ingredients:

Keebler Fudge Stripe Cookies

Hershey's kiss candies

Frosting (colored orange)

Directions:

1. Invert a cookie so that the chocolate coated side is facing up. Add a small dollop of orange frosting (about the size of a quarter) in the center.

2. Place an unwrapped Hershey's kiss in the center on top of the frosting. Enjoy.