Middle school students get a taste of French culture


“You just take it out and eat it.”

“I see that but I’m trying to work up the nerve.”

“One time I had escargot and it tasted bad.”

“But you haven’t had THIS escargot.”

Berkeley Middle School’s French students coached and coaxed one another to try new things on their field trip to Blue Talon Bistro for a taste of French culture and cuisine.

Joelle Peeters, the French teacher at Berkeley, said the field trip was scheduled for the end of her class’s unit on French food and culture. It’s a hands-on way for students to experience what they learned in the classroom.

Peeters said this is the seventh year for the field trip, and the Berkeley Parent Teacher Association raises money to split the tab 50-50 with students.

The owner and manager of Blue Talon, Adam Steely, said their restaurant is less overwhelming for eighth graders than a white-tablecloth French restaurant.

“We are a little more playful than a formal setting,” Steely said. “We are not a French restaurant, but we love the sensibilities of French cuisine, so we focus more on the flavors.”

However, Blue Talon served up some French comfort food’s for the students: clams, escargot, brandade, a meat plate with pâté and sausages and, finally, chocolate mousse.

Bread was served alongside every dish. Alyssa Wade, an eighth-grade French student, said the French eat bread every day and it is a big part of their culture.

“Culture in France is a big thing because its a little less diverse,” Wade said. “In America, you have all these different kinds of people, and it France its a lot of the same thing.”

Despite side-eyeing some of the more exotic dishes like escargot and muscles, every student tried a food they had never had before.

“That is fabulous because you need to be open to try new things if you want to get to know another country’s culture,” Steely said.

In fact, the two most popular dishes were the escargot seasoned with garlic, parsley and butter and the brandade, which was a dish made of fish, mashed potatoes and cheese.

After their meal, students filed back on the bus to continue business as usual at Berkeley. But for at least one day, lunch was anything but.

Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at aheymann@dailypress.com, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.

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