Drawing their wooden ladles through a bubbling pot of stew, Patrick Stokes, 7, and Aalap Dave, 10, turned up their noses at cooking.
But otherwise, Aalap, a fifth-grader at Jacobsville Elementary in Pasadena, and Patrick, a third-grader at St. Mary's Elementary in Annapolis, extolled the virtues of the "Living History" camp yesterday at London Town Publik House and Gardens.
"The only thing bad is you have to cook," said Aalap, adding that he doesn't know how to cook and prefers his stew cold, anyway.
The county Department of Recreation and Parks has offered the camp each summer for the past decade.
For five days, volunteers and staff at the historic tavern near Edgewater help children re-create colonial life through crafts such as stenciling, weaving, candle-dipping, soap making, herb gardening and, of course, cooking on an open hearth.
This year's camp also includes an environmental class that explores the impact of historical land uses, like tobacco farming on the Chesapeake Bay. The activity is financed through a $1,300 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, which distributes money collected through the sale of Chesapeake Bay license plates and the environmental income tax checkoff.
Yesterday morning, Shannon Loux, a naturalist from the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, demonstrated for children how household products they use affect the bay.
"We put shaving cream and tooth paste and stuff into a bowl of water from the [South River] and mixed it all up and saw what it did to the water," said Patrick, whose sister, Danielle, a fourth-grader, also participated.
"It was greenish and everything," said Aalap. "I can't believe we do that every day to the water."
The solution? "Don't use that stuff with . . . harsh chemicals. Find other stuff," said Aalap, who won a scholarship to offset the $80 camp fee.
Aalap won by writing an essay on why he wanted to attend the camp. "I like historic places," he said. Noting that he has toured historic Williamsburg and Annapolis, he said the camp at Publik House "is way better. You get to check it out more."
The thing Aalap has enjoyed the most? That's easy -- the time spent with Clarence William "Speedy" Hobarth of Edgewater, who portrays a frontier fur trapper. A leather craftsman, Hobarth demonstrates the rugged frontier life, helping children light a campfire using flint and steel and identifying animal tracks on the 14-acre Publik House campus.
The frontiersman's life "would be hard, but I'd like it," insisted Aalap.
The camp usually attracts about 30 children each week, but Wednesday only 14 participated.
Christine Coffin, a department spokeswoman, said enrollment was down because officials were uncertain about the camp's future until five weeks ago. County Executive Robert R. Neall's plans to turn operation of the public facility over to a private enterprise have been delayed at least a year, she said.
Children can still sign up for the weeklong camps, which run through the end of July.
For more information about registering a child in the Living History Camp, call the London Town Public House at 222-1919.