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?