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Essex Column

This Friday evening, March 15, a group from Middlebury College that specializes in a capella performances of Renaissance music will be at the Essex Community Church. This is for those of you who love the oldest of oldies; the singing starts at 7 p.m.

The Champlain Valley Film Society holds their annual festival of Oscar-nominated short films this Saturday evening at the Whallonsburg Grange. Starting at 6 p.m., there will be animated shorts, then at 7:30 p.m. a break, and at 8 p.m. live-action shorts. David Reuther of the society is happy to announce that the seats at the Grange are now upholstered and even more comfortable than ever.

The Grange’s series on American agriculture ends next Tuesday, March 19, with a talk by Hallie Bond on hunting, gathering and fungus farming in the 19th century Adirondacks. In other words, how and what they ate 150 years ago. Bond has long been associated with the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake and has written on a range of subjects, including landscape photography, summer camps and domestic history. Her talk starts at 7:30 p.m.

I’ve been on the road of late, visiting family and friends, exploring national parks and eating things seldom found in Essex County. A specialty beloved in Texas and thereabouts is something called chicken fried steak. This dish seems to have as many versions as chili, and creates just as much contentious regional pride. I stopped in the desert town of Blythe, California for the night and was directed to an old fashioned café for breakfast. Their claim to fame is chicken fried steak, which according to the chatty waitress has no chicken associated with it. She was appalled that I’d never had it before and made sure I understood their unconventional preparation techniques, passed down from some much revered but long dead cook, that made it superior to all others. A sirloin is pulverized sort of like Swiss steak, dredged in flour and secret seasonings, then fried on a blazing hot grill and served with white sausage-laden gravy. No amount of gentle probing could get her to reveal the exact seasonings but it was pretty good. Next week, an unscientific comparison of Pacific oysters to Atlantic ones.

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