Spice shops II: Debra’s Natural Gourmet

Concord, MA, is about 20 minutes’ drive from here (sometimes I feel like we live 20 minutes from exactly everything), so I don’t go there frequently. But when I do it feels like a field trip! I think Concord is the most picturesque New England-y town. I love driving by the gorgeous old farmhouses and barns, the cemeteries, the historic residences and landmarks.

To continue my tour of favorite spice shops, I “had” to go to Concord today to revisit Debra’s Natural Gourmet at 98 Commonwealth Ave. I didn’t grow up with any reference for a down-home country general store (Pathmark, Walmart, and the Rag Shop all lacking a certain personal touch), but Debra’s is pretty much what I envision in that category. The swinging screen door on the porch takes you into a bustling, friendly store which is full of food and home items, but which is still small and manageable. The staff are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and I get the impression that if I went more than once every few months, they actually would know my name.  They sell a lot of local produce and meat, all labeled with its origins; excellent healthy prepared foods; and have a bulk section of grains, coffee, and… yes: spices.

What I love about the bulk spices here is that, although the store overall is expensive, you can buy as much or as little of a spice as you choose, which will save you from winding up with too much of something you aren’t sure you like or only want for one recipe.  They have little jars up top for your filling pleasure.

One end of the store is devoted to natural medicine, candles, crystals, and some other stuff that’s a little less “my thing.” Debra’s also frequently hosts special or community events, and there is a tradition of a sale which is actually happening tomorrow. From the newsletter:

Once-a-Year EARLY BIRD Pajama Party.
Saturday, November 21st
We’ll be in our pajamas, you come in yours!
6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. only

Everything is 20% off.

No holds barred.
So, roll out of bed, put on bunny slippers and mosey on down.   If you wear PJs or a robe, we’ll treat you to a muffin.

I will always endorse events at which my pajamas are acceptable. And though it’s in a different section of Concord (Concord Center, whereas Debra’s is in West Concord), you must, if you go, visit my favorite shop in Concord (which sells no spices), Nesting on Main. Just going to this store is like creative therapy. It is filled with modern and vintage home and garden items, constantly changing, always surprising. You might find a bowl filled with old Scrabble tiles (so you can surprise whomever you play Scrabble with by sneaking an additional Q into the bag!), or vintage alphabet flashcards… refurbished antique jewelry or furniture… an antique bottle opener shaped like a fish (which I saw today). It’s such an unpredictable assortment, and while I often leave without purchasing anything, I feel joy from just walking around the store and taking in the beautiful miscellany of objects.

Perhaps all of this talk of spices is reminding you that Thanksgiving is in fact next Thursday. What are you cooking? Hosting or bringing? I need to make something to bring to my parents’ house that can be made ahead, at least a day before. I’m a little stressed about it, because while I seem to cook brilliantly at my home, whenever I cook or bring something to my parents’ house it is a spectacular failure. I think there is a vortex cast over the kitchen which allows only my mother to cook well there…

Read Spice Shops I


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