© Anushka Bose. All rights reserved.*
The Saadeddin store inside the Dhahran Commissary.
My memory of Dhahran includes various emblems that marked my time there. One of these emblems is the Saadeddin Pastry shop/stop inside the Dhahran Commissary. When I first moved to Dhahran, I was amazed by the colorful squares of chocolate wrapped in baby pink or turquoise blue covers placed symmetrically around a large gold plate. It just looked like pure happiness to me.
Saadeddin’s iconic green box.
Over the years, I began associating pastry from the shop with little moments of joy. Sometimes my dad would stop by the commissary after work, but before coming home. He would call my mom to ask if she needed anything. Sometimes I’d be on the other line because I would’ve picked up the phone at the same time, or I could overhear her talking while I was wandering about. I often didn’t explicitly ask him to pick up some cakes, but in my heart, I hoped he already knew my desire. And he did! When the garage door closed and I saw him walk past the hallway with a green box in his hand, the little me was elated with joy. I’d run down the stairs and join them for tea and cakes.
Saadeddin’s KatKatoo (Kit-Kat) Cake.
Saddedin pastries began to hold a bigger space during Christmas holidays when my brother would visit us on his winter break, and eventually when I’d visit my parents years down the road. It was tradition for us to buy Saadeddin’s large Katkatoo Cake, which was a KitKat cake. The outside layers were bordered with tiny chocolate strands and the inside was a nutty-hazelnut flavor with a dark chocolate ganache layer. It was heaven! We would purchase this cake every Christmas and enjoy its delicacy the whole week. My brother and I would make pitstops to the kitchen/fridge at various points throughout the day. We’d pull out our spoons and eat from the box while we chatted about things.
Saadeddin cakes at the Dhahran Commissary location. The blueberry cheesecake is on the middle level on the left. One of my favorites!
The tinier cakes that I loved, of which I can remember the names, included the Blueberry Cheesecake, the small Katkatoo cake, Rocher cake, coffee cake, and Piece Duo cake. But there were many more whose names I can’t recall!
At various events, at schools, or get-togethers with friends, especially during Ramadan or Eid, I would enjoy the baklava trays, mamool, or soft knafeh. The delicacy of Arab sweets was held together in the mixed flavors of the dough, pistachio, syrups, cream, and dates. And much happiness glued in between.
And don’t get me started on their nuts and dried fruits. My parents purchased pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and dried apricots from the store for me whenever I’d be visiting during the holidays. I could finish those pistachios in a sitting if I didn’t forcefully stop myself!
Macaroon Box from Saadeddin. The Chocolate and Vanilla flavors were my favorites!
When I had first moved to Dhahran, the pastry shop didn’t include macaroons in their collections, so when I first saw it around 6 years ago, I immediately bought a whole pack. I must say, macaroons sometimes look prettier than they taste, but some of the flavors were just fantastic.
Reflecting on my love for Saadeddin, I am reminded of how confectionaries and sweets have brought people together since the beginning of time. Baked goods have become the hallmark for many kinds of fundraisers, local events, and holidays alike. There has recently been an initiative in many cities to incorporate baking as a strategy for mental health initiatives. A few years ago, the Independent in the UK reported that baking is “a form of pill-less Prozac,” according to John Whaite, 2012’s winner of the hit UK TV series, “The Great British Bake Off.”
In that article, Whaite stated that he was diagnosed with manic depression in recent years. He noted: "Baking helps lift my depression. It can't cure it, but it helps. When I'm in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour, or butter I need for a recipe or cracking the exact number of eggs — I am in control. That's really important as a key element of my condition is a feeling of no control."
While my memory of Saadeddin pastry is one of consuming and not baking, it does remind me of the powerful tool that sweets have played in history to bring people together during celebrations, the charitable role plays in raising money for noteworthy causes and fundraisers, and the medium tool it provides individuals to cope with various personal struggles. This awareness makes me deeply appreciate bakers. Historically, it was bread that provided society with nourishment and subsistence. People would walk long miles just for a loaf of bread. And the adage of men providing their family with “bread,” stems from the role bakeries and breads played in the development of a family and a society.
It was my family’s tradition to purchase the KatKatoo (Kit-Kat) cake from Saadeddin during Christmas.
Even though I stray off most sweets now, I deeply crave a bite of Saadeddin’s KitKat cake! There was so much joy in that little green box. The memory of noticing the little green box in my dad’s hand or in the fridge in our home on Safaniya Drive will always make me smile and miss the good old days.
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Note: If you are in the Kingdom and are interested in learning more/purchasing from Saadeddin Pastry, you can visit their website at: https://www.saadeddin.com/
Anushka is a Graduate Student at Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. She spent her youth growing up in Dhahran, where she attended Dhahran Elementary, Dhahran Middle School, and Dhahran Academy. She loves learning about new cultures and is fascinated by the diversity that brings us all together, especially the expatriate community, where the only thing that is common is that we are all different, in culture, religion, and the perspectives we hold. One day she hopes to publish a book on the third culture kid experience. Dhahran holds a big place in her heart.