French pizza in Aquinnah?


It sounded incongruous at first — a pizza night in Aquinnah for high school French students? On further review, however, it started to make sense. Juli Vanderhoop’s Orange Peel Bakery has offered weekly pizza nights for a couple of years now, and her daughter, Ella, takes French at the regional high school.

Okay, go on…

And for the first time this year, high school French students are going to spend a week in France, of all places. France? I mean Europe is no bargain these days, and getting and staying there, between the dollars and the euros is — I don’t know — tres cher, n’est ce pas?

Yes, but…

Along comes French teacher Pierre Bonneau, who is organizing the trip with several parents, with the wacky conviction that the kids should take their act on the local road — to drum up enthusiasm for the program and money to help pay for their trip. Juli Vanderhoop suggested a pizza night with a French flavor at Orange Peel and voila — French pizza night in Aquinnah for teenagers. Pourquoi pas?

So last Friday evening, with a chill in the air and a big breeze in the trees, 22 out of 25 of the traveling students made their way to Aquinnah, bringing along as many friends and family members as they could recruit.

The Orange Peel provided the ingredients and attendees the elbow grease, rolling and forming the pizzas, paddling them in and out of the huge outdoor oven — made in France, by the way — that is the signature element in the bakery that’s become a signature institution at the west end of the Island. French toppings were de rigueur, of course, and the results were — how you say? — fantastique!

While the food was central to the evening’s appeal, there was much more going on, according to Monsieur Bonneau. “The idea is to link the French program to the community,” he said. “We need to create opportunities to use the language.”

Following what he calls a communicative approach, he teaches French based on the way it is spoken. “If you can speak it, everything else falls into place,” he said. “Grammar is important, but not for itself.”

And there’s no better place to speak French than France. “It’s the best way, of course,” M. Bonneau said, before extolling the virtues of travel. “There are so many reasons not to go: it’s scary, it’s too far away, I’m too busy. Of course, but I mean, come on….”