The Experience of Bulk Spices

The Experience of Bulk Spices

Jonathan B.
Aug 29, 2008

One small way to go green is to return to an older style of grocery shopping—before the first supermarket opened, grocery stores were full-service affairs, where you'd walk in and hand your list to a salesperson, who would run up and down packed aisles to retrieve your items from a list. Nothing was branded or in colorful packages; if you wanted flour, sugar, or spice, the quantity you wanted would be scooped to order and put in a small bag. We thought of this when we visited the Spice House in Evanston, Illinois...

Now, you're not walking to a counter at The Spice House, but rather, browsing through the store, and it is a delight for the senses. (It's still a bit old fashioned—someone else does do the scooping for you.) Buying from bulk, which is not to be confused with buying in bulk, makes sense. It may not seem like much to cut out the little glass jar that holds your spices, but think about the global impact of millions of small, relatively heavy glass jars used to transport minuscule amounts of spice. Or look in your kitchen cabinet and multiply that many spice jars by how many households there are in the US, and then imagine driving them all around. It's a small improvement, and not one that will save the world on its own, true, but it comes with other benefits.

Shopping for food this way—think peaches from the Farmer's Market instead of the plastic-encased four-pack at Trader Joe's—makes the shopping trip a much richer experience for all the senses, rather than the purely visual bombardment of a modern grocery store.

The Spice House has locations in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Berkeley a similar store, though not as pleasant of a shopping experience, is the Country Cheese Coffee Market. Is there a similar store in your neck of the woods? Let us know below.

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