Is this heaven? No, it’s Eden. But if you think it’s the same thing – well, there’s a kernel of truth in that.
Bite into that kernel at the Eden Corn Festival.
Route 62 takes you over a bridge, then past a sign saying “Welcome to Eden,” then past the ultimate sign of God’s country, a Shurfine supermarket. When you get to Shurfine, directions say, start looking for parking. Meaning, hand over a couple of bucks to leave your car in somebody’s yard.
Then revel in the kind of old-fashioned small-town festival that is increasingly rare: the midway, the funnel cakes, the booths of hippie dresses, the sky ride, Fowler’s candy apples, constant baseball games. Sunday brings a big crafts show and an even bigger classic car show.
Most importantly, there’s the corn.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! Corn is more than king in Eden: It’s Caesar. The corn concession, run by the local fire department and as big as a barn, opened Thursday at 5 p.m. By that time, people were already lined up. I soon learned why.
Fork over $2.75 for your ear. Carry it, in its butter-sodden box, to a table. Shake on a little salt, bite in, and ...
“Oh,” you say, and then, “Oh,” again.
I’d always heard the Eden Corn Festival’s corn was the sweetest and the best. There is nothing like the moment when you learn it is true. Luckily there’s no need for conversation. Nobody is talking. Everyone, at all the tables, is simply, blissfully, eating.
So enjoy your corn in silence, and savor the scene. The world’s largest napkin dispensers – they are needed. The husky guys hefting huge bags of ice and potatoes, cutting the french fries, a tub of which runs $4.75. Teenagers, shyly enjoying the spotlight, are breaking open burlap bags of corn – harvested, tradition has it, just that morning.
So what if it’s 80 or 90 degrees? It’s never too hot for corn. Or for the Eden Corn Festival’s famous corn chowder.
The Eden United Methodist Church has been serving it up for a half century. The recipe’s a secret, said church member Marlene Sullivan.
“Everyone makes certain pieces of the recipe. No one knows the whole thing,” she said. She herself had been charged with frying up six pounds of bacon, and she wasn’t the only one.
For $3.50 you get a Styrofoam coffee cup of that chowder. In other words, dinner. Rich with red peppers, ham and bacon, it’s shockingly filling. There’s also pie. And no talk of diets. A sign says: “All pie served with whipped cream.”
“All the ladies of the church are making the pie,” Sullivan said. “Tonight I’m making two. Carol makes 30 or 40,” she said, indicating another church baker. “I’m amazed at how many people come here,” Sullivan added. “On Saturday and Sunday we know it will be insane.”
Funny, the folks in the beer tent said the same thing.
“Saturday and Sunday, it’s crazy,” beamed Kathy Keller, selling the $4 drink tickets. She added good-naturedly: “On Friday and Saturday, the police come in at 11 p.m., and they shove ‘em out.”
The cold Bud tastes great. Or you can get Jack Daniels and Coke. Once we were cooled off, Keller and her husband, Bill, steered us toward a new treat. Pssst, they said. The nearby American Legion booth, in addition to their traditional clams, were debuting Buffalo Spuds – salt potatoes topped with butter and hot sauce and crumbled blue cheese.
Chicken wings, only potatoes! They had to be tried. They melt in your mouth.
So the hours pass, to the tune of country music and classic rock, the squawk of the loudspeaker. You’ll find yourself talking to strangers. The people are incredibly friendly.
You’ll also find yourself, if you’re smart, buying a dozen ears of corn to go. That way, the next day, you can taste it again. Ah, you will sigh. Eden!
Heaven can wait.