© Anushka Bose. All rights reserved.*
Since moving to Washington, D.C. a few months ago, I have been browsing different grocery stores. While mega-chain brands like Whole Foods and Target are commonplace no matter where you go, I hold a special place in my heart for local stores that operate as the underdog in the community. Recently, a friend mentioned stopping by “Rodman’s”, which has 3 locations spanning D.C. and Maryland.
When I first entered the Rodman’s Discount Gourmet Store, I did not hold any expectations, but a few minutes into the store’s old-school setup with international gourmet products and a bazaar-like feel, I felt that I had been transported back to the Middle East. What looked like a mom-and-pop shop from the outside, held large swaths of international goodies that I grew up with in South Asia and the Middle East but had not seen in years.
After doing some quick research, I learned that Rodman’s Discount Gourmet sprouted in 1955 in the D.C. area and was known to sell high-quality groceries at very low prices. It is an amalgamation of an international grocery store, a drugstore, and an alcohol store all in one. Whether you need to grab that small bottle of milk or are craving your childhood favorite McVities digestive biscuits, Rodman’s is a one-stop outpost for all that you need and all that you don’t know that you need! My favorite purchases from the store thus far were my McVities Digestive Biscuits and a particular brand of German coffee.
Assortment of Bread from the Middle East.
Spices from the Middle East.
Belgian and Swiss Chocolate
Maggi Noodles and Seasoning
Another charming aspect of Rodman’s is its size. In the West, big-box and chain stores are hallmarked by their size. Buying in “bulk” has become standard American practice. But Rodman’s outlet is quite cozy and narrow. You must be mindful of your step and make room for other buyers. The sheer variety of products there, from German coffee to Belgian Chocolate to Indian Maggie Noodles, from British Maltesers, and Middle Eastern bread and spices, the store has sustained itself by offering an international array of foods and wine at a discounted rate that you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. The store boasts a loyal cadre of customers, and the store is a hidden gem in the DMV (D.C.—Maryland—Virginia) area.
American Tea — The Republic of Tea
Irish Tea — Barry’s and Belwey’s
Wine assortment from Germany, Italy, Australia, Lebanon, Israel, Georgia.
Wine assortment from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Greece, and Israel.
With lived experiences in India and Saudi Arabia, and through my travels, I found items in the store that reminded me of the food sold at the Dhahran Commissary, which, if I come to think of it, basically operated as an international gourmet store. It boasted various products from Europe, the United States, Asia, and of course, the Middle East. Maltesers, a British chocolate, was something I last saw in the Dhahran Commissary until I came in contact with it a few weeks ago at Rodman’s. I last saw a pack of Maggi noodles in India many years ago. I had also missed seeing a wide variety of dates, nuts, and Middle Eastern spices since I left the Middle East — until I witnessed it at Rodman’s. I recently found the shakshuka mix at the store and it reminded me of the shakshuka I enjoyed at the Dhahran Dining Hall on the weekends. And the plethora of dark chocolate from various European countries filled the shelves at the store.
Assortment of European Chocolates.
British Chocolate — Maltesers, Mars, Cadbury Double Decker.
Perhaps the feeling that I am hoping to articulate is one of nostalgia. The nostalgic feeling of stepping into a little international gourmet store with a bazaar-like feel with bright tube lights hanging on the ceiling reminded me of my childhood in Dhahran. What is classified as a unique “international gourmet” store here was our everyday grocery store in Dhahran and elsewhere in the Eastern Province in the Kingdom. It makes me grateful to have been a part of a community in which diversity was part of our daily lives, one that we took for granted. I am happy to have encountered this feeling of nostalgia once again. With the holiday season in full swing, and with the World Cup being hosted in Qatar, I am reminded of all the wonderful memories that Christmas Break in Aramco signified for my family, as well as the World Cup Season, which my family and I enjoyed watching together.
Australian, British, and German cookies.
Scotland’s traditional Walker cookies.
I hope the pictures will give the reader a sense of the international array of foods that I speak of. If you ever find yourself in the D.C.-Maryland area, be sure to check out Rodman’s Discount Gourmet store. And no matter where you find yourself in the world after leaving Aramco, I am positive there must be a tucked-in international grocery market in your city. I would encourage you to seek that out — it will surely bring back memories, and it might help to incorporate those memories into your present life through your kitchen.
German Ritter Sport and British Cadbury
I am a firm believer in food’s power to bring together people of different backgrounds. My daily routine also symbolizes the coalescence of different cultures. My obsession with Turmeric and Cardamom in my food and drinks is resemblant of my Indian heritage, as well as my lived experience in the Middle East. If someone asked me to pick a favorite chocolate bar, I would pick British chocolate — Cadbury or Bounty Bar, because that is what I grew up with between South Asia and the Middle East. Having layovers in London Heathrow for the five years that I traveled back and forth between the United States and Saudi sprouted a passion for many U.K.-branded foods. As such, I believe our inclination toward a certain food product, or our ability to recall them, speaks volumes about our cultural upbringing. I am grateful for my background’s presence in the way I shop and think about food in all its aspects: taste, nutrition, and cultural exchange.
Lastly, I would also like to acknowledge my dear friend and fellow writer for Aramco-ExPats, Brid Beeler. I was catching up with her about my time thus far in D.C., and I told her about this gourmet store I found in D.C.. In response, she enthusiastically encouraged me to potentially write about this topic for Aramco ExPats; so, thank you, Brid, for allowing me to translate a quaint discovery into an article.
Anushka is a current PhD Student at American University in Washington, D.C. She spent her youth growing up in Dhahran, where she attended Dhahran Elementary, Dhahran Middle School, and Dhahran Academy High School. 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, language, and the perspectives we hold. One day she hopes to publish a book on the Third Culture Kid experience. Dhahran continues to hold a big place in her heart.
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