Former Cobb Sheriff Bill Hutson and then Chief Deputy Sheriff Neil Warren held the first Corn Boilin’ at the home of Johnny Woodward in Powder Springs two decades ago.
“The first year they cooked it, they cooked the corn in wash pots and heated it with wood — it had a wood fire around it,” Tippins recalled.
Warren, who was elected sheriff after Hutson retired, said there were about 60 people who attended that first gathering.
“And it just developed from there as a fundraiser for Sheriff Hutson’s campaign, and then later on it developed into the big event that it is today, and not only is it a fundraiser, but we made a commitment several years ago to the Cobb Youth Museum to help them raise some money,” Warren said.
Tippins said a corn boilin’ is a mountain tradition. When he was a boy, local farmers called mature corn “roasting ears,” meaning an ear of corn that was ready to be roasted.
“But as Southern language always goes, it was always affectionately known as ‘rossin’ ears.’ And all the old farmers even in west Cobb they’d talk about ‘goin’ have rossin’ ears before long,’” Tippins said.
Corn boilin’ is a popular north Georgia tradition.
“I’m talking about up in the mountains where Sheriff Hutson came from,” Tippins said. “It was a social event that when the corn first started coming in they’d have a big corn boilin’ and all the neighbors would come, and they’d boil corn and have a social event, and as things go at social events I think the women visited, the men might have had a little taste out of one of those mountain jugs, I’m not sure, but anyway, it was a longstanding social event.”
It’s Tippins’ job to get the cooking equipment together, which he stores in his office building during the year. In addition to the fresh corn, hoe cakes are on the menu.
“Originally back in the Old South, a lot of times when the slaves would go to the fields for lunch they would not carry a lunch with them, but they had these wide grubbing hoes in the cotton field,” Tippins said. “They would carry corn meal and probably a little bit of shortening, bacon grease, some salt, and they’d mix it together and make a corn bread batter, and they’d build them a small fire and they would take these hoes and hold them over a fire, and you could pour the corn bread batter over the blade of the hoe, and the hoe would get hot, and you could cook corn bread.”
The grubbing hoes were about 7.5 inches wide and eight inches long.
“So they’d make these little round cakes of corn bread that are about six inches in diameter, they would pour those out on that hoe and brown up, and they’d make a corn bread cake, so they started calling them ‘hoe cakes,’ because they made them on a hoe,” he said.
The hoe cakes at the Cobb Corn Boilin’ are about the same size, although Tippins said they are made on steel griddles. Accompanying the fresh corn and hoe cakes is fat back.
“We cook the fat back or streak o’ lean — lot of people call it ‘streak o’ lean.’ It sounds better than fat back,” Tippins said. “It’s a cut of bacon that’s got a streak of lean in it, that’s where that name came from.”
The senator enjoys his corn smothered with butter, salt and pepper.
“Just give me about three or four ears of good corn and a piece or two of corn bread and some streak o’ lean, I can make a meal off of that,” he said. “I’ve got to have some sliced tomatoes to go along with it. But you know, they’ve got pinto beans and sliced watermelon. It’s a good meal. It’s down home Southern cooking.”
This year, radio personality Moby will emcee and entertainment will be provided by the Out of Blue Band, and Sheriff’s Office Major Chris Griffith.
From the 60 people who came to the first event, Tippins estimates there were about 1,600 to 1,700 people who attended in 2012.
“I’d say in Cobb County it’s by far the largest political event annually,” Tippins said. “I’d say it’s one of the larger political events in the state because we get so many statewide candidates that come to this in contested races. If you get 2,000 people together that are interested in politics, I think that goes to the very heart of the definition of what politics is.”
The event has raised more than $170,000 for the Cobb Youth Museum. Warren attributes the popularity to the more than 100 volunteers who help carry it off, along with the fact that it’s a family reunion for the entire community.
“There’s a little bit of politicking goin’ on, but it’s a very subtle, you know what I mean?” Warren said. “And I just think the folks just like to get together, ’cause you’ll see Democrats there, you’ll see Republicans, you’ll see Libertarians, non-political people, and I think it’s just something that the folks have just going back to the old Southern hospitality of the family reunion.”
The 24th annual Corn Boilin’ will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at Jim Miller Park.