In recent years here in Washington pork has gotten a bad rap. Not the meat; the money. For much of American history one of the more touted claims of incumbents and aspirants alike has been an ability “to bring home the bacon” – AKA, federal funds – to and for constituents.
Mendel Rivers, the long-serving representative of South Carolina’s First District that included Charleston – was so prodigious in steering large projects to the First that cynics warned against anyone standing still for too long in Charleston lest the individual be mistaken for a tie-down in a mooring berth and find oneself tethered to yet another US Navy vessel funded by Representative River’s careful shepherding through Congress.
But even Mendel Rivers could not match John Stennis. Senator Stennis represented Mississippi for over 40 years and became known as the “Father of America’s Modern Navy” for his unflagging support of virtually anything the Navy sought.
That support was instrumental in making the small town of Pascagoula home the state’s largest employer, Ingalis Shipbuilding, owned by Northrup Grumman, one of the major defense companies, as well as Naval Station Pascagoula, homeport to Navy vessels and major Coast Guard operations. (Alas, Pascagoula Station was closed in 2006.)
More recently, however, “bringing home the bacon” is often decried as “pork barrel politics” by which national interests are made secondary to local ambitions and enterprises. Congressional “earmarks” – legislation that directs funds be spent in a specific jurisdiction – are now considered unseemly, albeit, the term does not pertain to the porcine hearing organ.
By contrast, pork – the meat, no the money – has gained a certain culinary cachet even as its metaphorical partner seems sullied. Elegant restaurants boast of appetizers and entrees of pork belly and pork dishes are now more or less staples of menus.
Here in the District, the subtly-named restaurant The Pig proclaims, “We serve hand-crafted food & drink, pork centric and respect the whole animal,” ears included if not necessarily marked. To date, no reports reference a member of Congress dining at The Pig, and it remains to be seen if a senator of a representative will order takeout, pick up her/his order and thereby, perhaps quite literally, bring home the bacon.