12 July, 2011

12 July, 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 403 % Postmaster, N.Y.
France
12 July, 1944
Dear Sweetheart –

I got two letters yesterday – the 24th and 27th and can well understand your reaction on learning we had left England. But I’m glad, dear, that you are taking the right attitude. Just have faith and all will be well. You remember I wrote you yesterday about trying to do some hospital work. Well I went to a nearby Evacuation Hospital. They handle cases after they have been seen in an aid station and a clearing station. They treat for shock, and operate on the shrapnel and bullet wounds etc., put plaster on fractures – etc. Well, sweetheart, that’s what I was doing yesterday from 1300 to 2100. It was the best day I’ve had in the Army in my 2 years – best because I was doing something to help and because I liked the work. I had spoken to the C.O. of the hospital in the a.m. and offered my help and offered to bring some aid men too. He was tickled and asked if I could do surgery. When I said yes – he assigned me to the O.R. and my men also. As it stands now – with the consent of my own C.O. – I’ll do my battalion work by noon – and shoot over to the hosp. for p.m. and evening work – as long as we remain anywhere near them. It’s really wonderful and I hope it lasts. Even if we move far from this one – we’ll volunteer for another. All for now, darling. I hope you share my enthusiasm. I love you, dear – remember?? Love to all and all my love to you –
Greg


* TIDBIT *

about Calvados

Yesterday, Greg mentioned becoming acquainted with "Calvados" in Douville. Here is some more about that.

In 1789, soon after the revolutionary government began wresting power from the king, the new National Assembly understood the need to divide the country into county-like administrative "departments", eventually leading to the creation of the department of Calvados. The major apple-growing area in Normandy is situated in and around the department of Calvados, whose beaches were the main staging area for D-Day, and whose lands became a central battle zone throughout the Invasion of Normandy. Cider had been distilled into brandy in Normandy, and specifically this area, since the 16th century. By the early 1800s the brandy produced in this area began taking on the name Calvados, that of the department at the heart of the production area.

Calvados begins with a good cider with the right mix of sweet, sour, and bitter-sweet apples, of which numerous varieties are grown in Normandy. Some ciders use up to two dozen varieties. After the apples are harvested in fall (sometimes into December), they are stored in a dry, well-aired place for anywhere from several days to several weeks before being pressed. The pulp is then slowly pressed, with the resulting liquid placed in air-tight vats, typically stainless steel, and allowed to ferment naturally over a period of six weeks to three months. The cider can then be filtered and pasteurized, depending on production methods.... or distilled to make Calvados brandy.

Calvados is made by single or double distilling the cider, then maturing the liquor in oak casks, hence the amber color. It’s said that making a good Calvados requires losing a lot of Calvados in the process. The first distillation of cider yields an intermediate product, the "petites eaux". The "heads" and "tails", which contain undesirable compounds, are carefully eliminated. These "petites eaux" are then heated for the second distillation, the "bonne chauffe". The heads and tails are once again eliminated. As it emerges from the still, Calvados is colorless, produces a burning sensation on the palate, and gives off an aroma of fruit and alcohol. After two years aging in oak casks, it can be sold as Calvados and is more or less 42 percent alcohol. The longer it is aged, the smoother the drink becomes. Usually the maturation goes on for several years. A bottle of twenty-year-old Calvados can easily command double the price of a bottle of ten-year-old Calvados.

Calvados — affectionately known as calva — is appreciated as an after-dinner drink or digestif and is increasingly promoted for use in cocktails. Prior to WWII it was probably best known as a way of convivially ending a meal in the form of café-calva, still practiced, whereby a shot of brandy is served at the same time as a shot of espresso. The café and the calva are then either downed — first the café then the calva — each in its own receptacles or by drinking the café then pouring the calva into the warm coffee cup. The imbibing of a café-calva is to be performed with a sense of pastoral well-being or old-chum camaraderie. This sounds much like Greg's experience in a farmhouse on 1 July, causing him to "zigzag".

One long-time tradition in the drinking of Calvados is le trou Normand, or "the Norman hole". This is a small drink of Calvados taken between courses in a very long meal, sometimes with apple sorbet, to aid in digestion and to re-awaken the appetite. Calvados can be served as apéritif, blended in drinks, between meals, as a digestif, or with coffee. Well-made calvados should naturally be reminiscent of apples and pears, balanced with flavors of aging. The longer it is aged, the smoother the drink becomes. Usually the maturation goes on for several years. A bottle of twenty-year-old Calvados can easily command double the price of a bottle of ten-year-old Calvados. The less-aged calvados distinguishes itself with its fresh apple and pear aromas. The more-aged calvados tastes more like any other aged brandy. As Calvados ages, it may become golden or darker brown with orange elements and red mahogany. The nose and palate are delicate with a concentration of aged apples and dried apricots balanced with butterscotch, nut and chocolate aromas.

Here are picture of an orchard with apples grown to make Calvados as well as a picture of aging barrels:



And now for something a little different. A travel site has posted that on a farm along the Normandy cider route a guest can sleep in a Calvados barrel. Yes, that’s the barrel used to store that delicious Norman apple brandy! The barrels have been converted into small rooms, for no more than two people, and are firmly anchored into the soil, leaving no fear of rolling away during a windy night!

Cider Barrel: Sleeps Two!

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