31 . 05 . 15
An Uphill Start

Writing and images by Julia Georgallis

It took four months, nine people, about a million loaves of bread, several favors, a man called Dave and a Mini to launch The Bread Companion. As always, things went wrong and took far longer than I thought they would. In the Spring of 2015, the idea of finally pushing the project out the door was a terrifying prospect. I suppose the beginning of anything is always the hardest part – even getting the smallest of tasks going can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle. The topic of uphill is pretty fitting for my bread oven’s first journey out of town to a hilly, bumpy, winding and pot-holey Stroud. On a drizzly Friday afternoon, still freshly welded together, my trailer finally made its way out of London’s stratosphere, precariously towed by my Mini. In the front seat of the car, I drove for two and a half hours with everything crossed, accompanied by good friend Lauren of HEKA. And of course, we did make it, trailer in one piece and car still functioning, to bake our little hearts out at TBC’s first public event.

I was in Stroud for two Saturdays in May, running drop in bread making workshop as part of an exhibition called ‘Concerning Plants’. Curated by textile designer and Royal College of Art friend of mine, Gemma Waggett, the exhibition was part of Stroud’s annual International Textile fair. Each participant’s work explored how nature influenced their practice. Our take on celebrating plants was to look at its roots, something that I have touched on in my last couple of posts. Bread was one of the first things that our ancestors made by altering the nature of plants. I thought it would be interesting to teach one of the first leavened bread recipes during my first workshop – Beer Bread, which is quick easy and fun. We used flour from Shipton Mill – which is just up the road from Stroud in Tetbury and, wonderfully enough, beer from the East London Brewing Company, one of whose founders is from Stroud.

Happily, we had a warm reception by Strouders and all went well, minus a few burnt flatbreads. Stroud is teeming with creative life – it is full of studios run by artists and designers, but it isn’t over saturated and still has the vibe left over from a mass hippy exodus from London in the 60’s. I have to say, it wasn’t really what I was expecting. I’d never travelled to the Cotswalds before, and I was sort of expecting flat caps and riding crops, Hunter wellies and labradors. But actually, Stroud is artsy without being pretentious and pretty without being twee. I liked the look of the Saturday’s farmers market complete with accordions and people playing double bass (I also thoroughly enjoyed the couple walking their ferrets). Taking part in the textile festival was just the right push that The Bread Companion needed, and we look forward to heading up again in the future for a bit more baking.

A massive thanks to Lauren who helped me on the first weekend and Steve, Mike, Hannah, Rob and Helen who gave me a big push on the second. Thanks to Gemma for inviting me and Neil for letting my oven spend the week on holiday in the Stroud Goods Shed