It’s All About the Bread

by | Oct 7, 2015 | 31 Letters from London

This is day eight in a new series: 31 Letters from London. In October, I’m doing something a little different and writing to you about the realities of life as an expat; finding the nearness of God through random experiences with new culture. It’s important to begin here and find the collection of letters here. We’re breaking for Sabbath every Sunday.


“Did you know we have focaccia,” I ask Harrison. He’s looking for an afterschool snack.

“No, where is it,” he asks, craning his neck and scouring shelves of an open refrigerator.

Pulling the brown paper bag off the golden loaf, I notice no one cut into yet though I bought it nearly a week ago. He chews a small bite, straining his jaw opened and closed as if he is gnawing on paste.

“Throw it the bin,” I tell him. Tomorrow is bread day.

On Thursday, we look forward to a weekly two day market on King Street, the town square in Hammersmith, the borough where we live. Greater London is subdivided by 32 boroughs. Typically, the focal point of a borough is where businesses, shops and street stalls are located, referred to as a High Street, preceded by the name of the settlement. For instance, Kensington High Street is near us.

When people ask where I live, they are looking for the name of the borough for association, kind of like a housing development, gated community or part of the city we refer to in the US. This is similar to referring to Central Phoenix, the East Valley, West side or the Biltmore area for those familiar with Greater Phoenix in Arizona.

Those odd-to-us postal codes with letters and numbers reveal more than you can imagine. Typically, a full UK postcode represents a street, a part of a street or a small village. It’s the most complicated system in the world; each unique code usually limits the area down to around eighty properties. Postal codes are the basis for insurance and house prices. Amazing!

But I digress, back to telling you about the bread.

Temporary canopies fill in the normally empty space in the town square, selling fresh produce, baked goods, and lunch for people working and shopping in the area. You must pay with cash.

I carry a big cloth bag over my shoulder (because now plastic bags cost 5 pence each) and buy three small loaves of bread for the week. Well, as Harrison discovered, they don’t last a whole week because the bread is made without preservatives. And it’s delish — fresh, crusty and full of flavor.

Irish soda bread is my favorite, H likes the giant crusty loaf referred to as rustica and Harrison gobbles up the focaccia that smells like olive oil and fresh rosemary. Today, I couldn’t resist an almond croissant front and center on the table. A pain de chocolat or what we refer to in the States (wrongly) as a chocolate croissant was thrown in my bag for free at the last minute.

Getting to the stall late in the day means you may not get the bread your heart was set on but you will get freebies thrown in for being a patron.

Loaves are cut to taste in the first five minutes after landing on the bread board in the kitchen.  And Halloumi cheese layered on top of the soda bread. This is a new-to-us salty white cheese with the consistency of fresh mozzarella.

I may never again be able to eat store bought bread. Or be satisfied with cheese in the US. And the French know how to make a baguette better than the English, let’s just be honest.

There is something special about breaking bread on the day that precedes the end of a week. The rhythm provides celebration of work well done in the past and an expectant anticipation toward the weekend. We taste the goodness of God’s provision anew every Thursday; a reminder of His faithfulness.

Speaking of bread, here is the recipe I use for making Challah in case you are interested. I’ll be honest; my bread making days are slim now since tasty fresh bread is easily accessible in London.

Do you make bread? What type is your favorite? And what do you put on top of a fresh slice?


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  1. Constance Ann Morrison

    I’m loving this series, Shelly! I am vicariously enjoying your experiences in London, market day included.
    Those crusty, farm-style loaves help me to understand the meaning of “breaking” bread.
    I used to bake bread when I used to eat bread, and I frequently made a loaf with oatmeal and the liquid from cooking potatoes. I’d top a slice with real butter.

    • Shelly Miller

      I love anything with oatmeal Constance. Thanks for letting me know you are reading. Appreciate your encouragement!!

  2. Mary Bonner

    This post makes me hungry. I printed your bread recipe almost 3 months ago and bought the yeast. Then life got crazy and the recipe still sits with the yeast waiting…maybe I’ll do it this weekend. It will be my first attempt at making bread. I usually buy fresh bread at a upper-end supermarket in town. But when…not if…I make bread from scratch, I’d slather it with butter and possibly jam or honey. But most certainly butter!

    Thank you for this series. I am enjoying reading about your life in London.

    • Shelly Miller

      I love the whole process of baking bread for some reason. It takes me away to somewhere restful. I know that sounds weird but its the truth.

  3. Kelly W

    Love hearing about the day-to-day experience in London.
    Baguettes (or market ciabatta) with brie totally satisfies my fresh bread cravings. Although last week we were served raisin walnut bread at the top of a mountain in rural Spain. That was awesome without any topping!

    • Shelly Miller

      Hope you had a good time away Kelly. Nice to have you back!

  4. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Ah fresh bread…. and open-air markets! This is the beauty of European life. Here in St. Louis, Shelly, we have a relatively new bread bakeru called Breadsmith, which bakes artisan loaves. We live just a few miles from the only one. The St. Louis Bread Company (known elsewhere as Panera) is ubiquitous here, of course, which makes Breadsmith all the more special. Michael rises very early on Saturdays to be first there to have first pick of all the scrumptious offerings, which will be gone quickly. There are always a number of luscious samples available. He also picks up several loaves of rosemary-and-olive-oil focaccia for Mother and hangs them in a plastic bag (a *free* one at that!) on her doorknob. It’s early, so he doesn’t want to awaken her. I tell him not to buy their croissants, though, because as you say about the baguettes, no one makes them like the French. What I especially loved in England were the hot scones. Nobody makes those like the British….and of course, as you and I agree, nobody brews tea like them either. How lovely that you and your family can break fresh bread together. It seems like the baking and breaking of bread, like Sabbath, is a feast Christians can enjoy wherever we are. I will be thinking of you this Saturday when Michael brings home fresh bread and I put the kettle on!

    • Shelly Miller

      For some reason I forgot that Panera is actually the St. Louis Bread Company! Thanks for the reminder. Harrison cut into the loaf of focaccia as soon as he arrived home from school today. I love that Micheal buys bread and drops it off for your Mother — so sweet.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Yes, it is! They tried to call it the St. L. B. Co elsewhere, and no one would buy it! Isn’t it interesting what a little marketing will do? Yes, he is so dear, and your H is a gem, a keeper.

  5. Nicola Shannon

    At this point I feel obliged to help you on your way to full British conversion! You can up your Brit-points by not throwing out your bread. No traditional Brit would do that. We would instinctively break up old bread and give it to the birds…. which is why we have bird tables. If, like me, you don’t have one (too many cats in a small space) then just throw the crumbs on the patio and they’ll swoop down in seconds. There’s something about throwing out or wasting bread which just isn’t right for us. On reflection, I think maybe we have an inherent historic respect for what was once our staple.

    On another bread related point (only if you are really geeky about your bread terminology!) the bread you are probably eating as Irish soda bread (always mis-labelled by the English) is in fact Irish wheaten bread. Irish soda bread (particularly good with fried white fish) is white and baked on a griddle into flat rounds which are then quartered into ‘farls’. I can supply the recipe for both if you are interested, although for optimum authenticity they latter requires soda bread flour which is only available in Ireland. The wheaten is easier, especially as we can now get buttermilk in supermarkets in England rather than having to approximate with yoghurt. Possibly too much bready information, but if you really want a bread exploration go to Northern Ireland for a visit…. full of bakeries and the most extensive high teas you’ve ever seen!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m not sure I can make this conversion Nicola. I don’t have that many birds because of our high wall. I can just imagine moldy bread in my garden — ick! But it sounds nice. *wink* I do love being resourceful and less wasteful though, something most Americans aren’t used to doing. Thanks for the info on the soda bread. H’s Mother is 100% Irish but from Canada. I guess every region has their version, eh?

  6. Devi Duerrmeier

    My hubby loves crusty bread, too. Have you ever pan fried halloumi???? It’s delicious, just a bit of olive oil in a hot pan, put the slices of halloumi in the oil until each side is brown. Put in top if a salad or drizzle with chili-infused olive oil. It is SO good.

  7. Lisa

    Baking Banana or Pumpkin bread fills the house with aroma memories. Dense, hearty flavor melting butter when its fresh from the oven.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m hoping to get some pumpkin from the American store soon Lisa. Love both banana and pumpkin bread, especially this time of year.

  8. DeanneMoore

    It’s about the bread…and BUTTER…This post reminded me of the day I bought bread at the street market down the way…Ha! The guy selling his baked goods couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand him…We were both speaking English! At least, we had a good laugh… And thanks for the info on zip codes and places in the city of London…incredible to think about from someone like me who could never devise such an process to make sure everyone’s mail gets in the slot..

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh yes, the butter. Both bread AND butter are loving my waistline (unfortunately). ha! It’s fun knowing you can picture what I’m writing about because you’ve been here. xx

      • DeanneMoore

        I’m loving it too!! 🙂

        • Lynn D. Morrisey

          Dea & Shelly, had to chime in here. Butter makes the bread! We love Pulgra (a European sweet butter–delish!). Also guys, gotta tell you that I love how the Brits name their houses. Our friends dont’ even use a house #, as many do not (I would thnk in London that you must). But they just use their cottage name, and the postman finds them. Amazing. We named our first house Linden Cottage when we got back from England, and this one is Ingleside (meaning hearthside…we have 3 hearths/fireplaces). Shelly & Dea, what have you named your houses?

  9. Pam

    I seem to be reading your posts around midnight and so weary, I can’t make my thoughts go to the keys to type them. So I came back on this one. Bread… fresh baked, warm, I could eat it non stop, which is the problem. I buy only the artisan crusty loaf, rosemary sourdough olive oil my fav, here… none of that regular store wonder bread stuff. So I can envision the utter delight of all that bread fresh in the market square! I have a suggestion before you throw out the bread – as long as it is not moldy, but just a bit stale, it can make wonderful bread pudding! I think this must be one of the reasons bread pudding came about… to waste not, but to create a wonderful dessert or savory delight. I found this one on pioneer woman (food channel if you ever watched here) and have made it a couple of times. Scrumptious, and I even substituted plain, unsugared almond milk for the cream! This one is baked french toast, but it really is bread pudding: 🙂 Pam, apples of gold,

    • Shelly Miller

      I literally just said out loud that I need to find a bread pudding recipe and here you are linking me up with one! Yay! Thanks Pam. God is good!

      • Pam

        Must of been Him then, tweaking me until I shared it! 🙂 I’ve only discovered bread pudding in last couple of years and can’t get enough!

  10. pastordt

    Oh man, I love this. I’ve never been a big Farmers’ market fan, unless I’m on vacation. And maybe it still feels a little like vacation to you at this point? Not sure because it is surely becoming HOME.

    • Shelly Miller

      I do pinch myself often Diana. Still can’t believe I get to live in the city that speaks most to my heart. And maybe that’s how the place God has for you is supposed to feel — like you’re on vacation ALL the time! xx

  11. Charis

    so glad to have discovered your blog through this series….getting fresh bread is one of the best things of living in a country other than the US!

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