Do we eat to live or live to eat?

People go to the Clinton County Corn Festival for any number of reasons — antique cars, old tractors, reliving our history of agriculture, Corn Olympics, flea market and antiques, visiting friends, and, of course, the food.

The delicious, hearty, homemade food.

On Friday night, Debbie and I were sitting at a table chowing down on a variety of Corn Festival goodies. I was eating a steak sandwich. It used to be called a Sorority Steak Sandwich. As I understand it, the sorority no longer makes it, but everyone still calls it a Sorority Steak. It’s an amazing concoction.

Take an excellent chopped meat paddy. Cook it to perfection. Smother it with a hearty gravy filled with sliced onions. Keep it in a slow cooker until a smiling, hungry customer comes to the window. Put that hot, juicy, tasty delight on a fresh bun, wrap it in a piece aluminum foil and the smile just keeps getting bigger.

Debbie wanted a bite, so I handed her my drippy, goopy sandwich.

It was funny to watch. She took a bite and couldn’t get it to end. The onions and gravy just kept on coming and coming. It may have been the all-time messiest, most delicious bite of sandwich anyone ever took. We both laughed.

Steak sandwiches, ham and bean soup, pressed chicken sandwiches, Saratoga potatoes, homemade ice cream, baked goods, apple butter, maple cotton candy, cobbler, amazing pork, burgers, pizza and, of course, corn on the cob.

The Corn Festival is heaven-on-earth for anyone who really loves good food. That would certainly include Debbie and me.

Several months ago, I wrote about a quest that Debbie and I started to visit all the restaurants on a list of the “19 Places in Ohio to Eat at before you Die.” Debbie found the list on That site constantly changes their lists, but we decided to copy the 19 Places list and visit them all.

Last month we took a few days and traveled to the Cleveland area to visit several of the places that are on our list. We had lunch in an old converted train car (Buckeye Diner) and dinner in a covered bridge (Covered Bridge Pizza). In just a few days, we checked five places off our list. They were scattered from Bellville to Ashtabula, and from Cleveland to Canton.

It’s really not just about the eating (not completely). It is also about the travel, the search, meeting new people and having new experiences. It’s about having fun. Every day, each of us have to eat something.

So, we decided to have a little adventure with our daily dining.

Like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, we have also discovered that there is really no place like home.

Slyman’s Deli in Cleveland has been rated the best in all of Ohio. Their corned beef is absolutely delicious, but I could not find a sandwich on their deli menu called The Hot Mayor.

Jen’s Deli honored me a few years ago by naming a thick, jalapeno, cheese and hot sauce sandwich for me, their mayor. I love it — the sandwich and the honor.

I also love sitting in a booth and hearing Rocky shout out, “I’ve got a Hot Mayor.” That’s how I know my lunch is ready. I usually shout back, “Yes, you do!” Slyman’s couldn’t do that.

We have several outstanding places to eat right here in Clinton County: Jen’s Deli, the General Denver, the Capricorn Inn, the Spillway, Firehouse Pizza, Sam’s, The Mediterranean, Fiesta Vera Cruz, El Dorado and many others. You don’t need to drive across Ohio in search of good food. It can be found right here at home.

But, the food from the Corn Festival … now, that’s something special.

You can sometimes tell the happy festival-goers by the stains on their shirts from the cobbler and ice cream. You can tell which smiling people really enjoyed the Boy Scouts’ corn on the cob by the yellow kernels of corn that are hanging from their teeth.

And, occasionally, you can tell who had a hearty bowl of ham and bean soup by just following around behind them for a short while … sometimes, you can just tell.

Debbie and I are going to continue our drives around Ohio. We are going to continue sampling food from every corner of the state.

It’s fun, but it’s much more likely that you’ll find us enjoying a good meal and a margarita or a little sangria somewhere here in town.

When it comes to good food, there is really “No place like home.”

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist