A Gentleman Farmer Pours Us His 44

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We met Alain Travert in front of his oven. Tucked away into a non-descript shed, the oven where he bakes natural bread doesn’t look like much from the street. Inside, this retired bachelor farmer baker creates baguettes and country breads every day, and refuses to sell them to anyone. He’d rather give them away to friends.

He showed us his perfectly manicured gardens, a long tidy collection of every vegetable imaginable beside a well-trimmed hedge. He grows the hedges himself in little pots. We saw a few stumps of apple trees upon which he had grafted new shoots, it turned out he decided to improve a poor growing variety with a better one, attatching the new shoots to the stumps.

He grows all of this food for just himself, having retired a few years ago after a heart operation. Just about all he needs comes from this little patch and his baking shed. He asked us if we’d heard of 44, and explained that it’s a drink that’s made here in La Manches. You take a liter of Calvados and poke 44 holes in an orange, filling them with sugar cubes and 44 coffee beans. Three months later you have this sweet strong elixir known as 44.

Of course, primed by our lunch of sausages, salad bread and wine, we had to sample the stuff. I prepared myself for a gasoline sort of taste, asking for just half a dram. But damned if it wasn’t as sweet and easy to drink as a fine liqueur. So I refilled my glass, much to Alain’s delight.