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Kids get taste of France at culture camp

June 24, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

by RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

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Taste of France

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - One way to learn a new culture is through its cooking.

That's exactly how six Waynesboro area youngsters are going about it at Peggy Weller's French Language and Culture Camp, a week-long immersion in French language, art, literature and, of course, cooking.

The camp is held for one week every summer at Weller's Victorian home on South Potomac Street, the house where she grew up.

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"This camp is an enormous amount of work," said Weller, 50, who teaches French at Penn State Mont Alto during the school year.

"My husband says I'm a French missionary, but it's my favorite teaching experience. I believe that we begin learning our languages much too late. These kids soak it up like a sponge," she said.

Weller's roomy home, with its wraparound porch and ample grounds, lends itself to the camp because of its efficient kitchen, space for lessons and room for the elegant snacks and lunches the students prepare with the help of a French cookbook.

They learn to set the table the "proper French way," and serve the food in the formal dining room or the front porch, depending on whether it's lunch or snacks.

The camp provides hands-on experience, with each student performing a different task every day, Weller said.

On Tuesday morning, the students were preparing lunch by cutting up red cabbages for the chou rouge braise, skinning chicken breasts and soaking them in red wine for the coq au vin and slicing apples and rolling out pizza-size dough for the tarte aux pomes.

Some of the students stand on stools to reach the pots on the stove. They wear aprons and wool berets and keep in character by adopting French names.

Dennis Cuppy, 13, is going by "Francois" for the course. A veteran in his third year at the camp, he gets to wear a chef's hat.

"He's the chef in charge. He's adept around the kitchen, loves the French culture and knows how to peel and chop an onion," Weller said. "He chooses the recipes and helps the other students."

Cuppy said he does a lot of French cooking at home. "My grandmother is French," he said.

Laura Smith, 9, holds up her right hand and shows a scar from last year's camp.

"She burned it in the crepes," Weller said. "When you cook you might get a little burn or cut. We try to be safe, but I want them to be involved with the cooking."

Collins Boland, 10, whose French name is "Colin," said he's attending the camp to get a head start on the French courses he will take in sixth grade. "This will make it easier," he said.

Stefanie Zeis, 9, who calls herself "Therese" at camp, takes the cooking lessons seriously.

"I think it's fun to learn about the French," she said.

Weller speaks French to the students when possible and teaches them about French artists, culture, history and literature during the week. Classes run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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