We talk BBQ, Congressional ribs, Bojangles, the best soul food in DC, and doubling dates with RGIII
Being born and raised in the best state in this country, North Carolina, I am partial to all things we have to offer. So when my friend Congressman Richard Hudson, Republican Congressman representing the 8th District of North Carolina agreed to sit down and talk food with me, I jumped at the chance.
I am always curious what members of Congress eat, if they cook, and specifically for North Carolina members, what type of BBQ they prefer! While there is no “correct” answer because all pork is delicious, there is a correct answer and it’s Eastern NC vinegar based BBQ – let’s see what the Congressman thinks.
First I wanted to know why he decided to run for Congress. As I expected from what I know about him, it’s because he truly believes in not only this country, but fixing it. “I was a Chief of Staff here on the Hill,” he begins, “and never planned to run for Congress. But the growing frustration with the process up here and that Republicans and Democrats don’t talk to each other really impacted me – so I decided, it’s time to step up and play a different role and try to make a difference.” The more people we have who actually want to make a difference, the better, and you can tell from the conviction in his voice, he means it.
Okay, we know Rep. Hudson came to DC to try and make a difference and not for the reception food. So there has to be a food he misses from back home. “Probably a Bojangles’ biscuit – a Cajun fillet biscuit,” he says to be exact. “Although there is a Bojangles’ now in Union Station, it’s just kind of hard to get over there,” he remarks as the House is on the other side of the US Capitol and the Bojangles’ is behind the Senate inside the train station. He also says his misses, “Sweet tea because we just can’t get good sweet tea here, I get the bottled stuff, but it’s just not as good,” he adds. I agree. Maybe Bojangles will walk some over to the House side for him!
Of course like any good Southerner the Congressman can fish out the best spots to get his fix. I ask him where he goes when he is feelings homesick or wants a real Southern meal in DC.
“The best kept secret in DC is Levi’s Port Café, over on 8th Street SE. Johnny runs the place and he uses his momma’s recipe for all the home-cooking and southern vegetables,” recalls the Congressman. “His daddy worked in a famous BBQ place back in Cary, NC so he has the eastern NC BBQ recipe so he does all the BBQ there himself. And he has sweet tea. And he has homemade desserts. He does have an all you can eat lunch buffet, which I haven’t been to in a long time because you have to block off for a three-hour nap after,” he jokes.
Easy questions aside, let’s get down to brass tacks – BBQ. No, it’s not a verb, it doesn’t mean to grill (well, it does from the word barbacoa which means to cook over flame), but in the South BBQ means one thing: slow cooked pork over fire. However it is not that straightforward. There’s whole hog or partial; gas, charcoal, or hardwood; pulled or chopped; vinegar, tomato, or mustard based; Eastern or Western. Yes, the BBQ debate is a detailed and divisive one.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I ask Congressman Hudson what are his thoughts on BBQ? The second I ask this question I can see thoughtful contemplation occurring. For a Southerner, this is no easy question.
“Well I grew up in Eastern North Carolina before I moved to Charlotte,” he begins off to a good start in my book, “So if I had to choose, I’d have to say Eastern style – the vinegar based – is my favorite.” BAM! Personal victory for me, but let’s not kid, all NC BBQ is delicious. He continues by adding, “It’s hard to argue with the Lexington style with the mesquite wood, but I definitely like pulled pork better than chopped if you can get it.”
One of the things I like best about Rep. Hudson is his close ties to family, the state of NC, and how he relates almost everything back to this. “You know my granddaddy was a tobacco farmer and raised hogs, so every family get together on my dad’s side my whole life we had a pig roast. If you’ve ever had fresh pork where the men start cooking at 4:30am in the morning, then by early afternoon all the kids would go over and try to sneak a rib off the thing- nothing beats this kind of pulled pork, in my mind.”
I ask if the Congressman cooks. His answer is immediate, and that answer is no. “My wife does all the cooking, all of the cooking,” he says with a large smile. Quick to redeem himself he says, “Although I’m really good with the grill, so anything you can grill, I can do. I’m part of a hunting club so we usually have two big weekends where everyone is there, so I usually cook breakfast – oh yeah – I am good at breakfast food – but I’ll usually grill steaks and baked potatoes, and grill some onions wrapped in tin foil. I like to grill, but with our lifestyle unfortunately most of my meals I feel like are eaten in the passenger seat of a suburban running from event to event up here.” It is true I can assure you that Members of Congress do run from event to event, so I completely believe he misses standing behind the grill.
Since he likes to grill I ask something I like to ask everyone I talk to, what is the strangest thing in his refrigerator. He smirks and says, “Well, I actually looked last night because I’ve read these and knew you might ask that. The strangest thing in there right now is flax seed, ground flax seed because my wife uses it, but I don’t eat that stuff, I don’t touch it.” He continues again making ties to his family, “But I was thinking about back home, and my Aunt does canning like my grandmother used to do and she has some peppers in a mason jar canned.” We laugh how for Southerners that isn’t really strange. In fact, I have pickled canned asparagus in my fridge as we speak (great in Bloody Marys, mind you).
His favorite thing to eat is anything he harvests himself such as “venison, duck, quail, and pheasant. I love cooking wild game,” he says, and he also enjoys Mexican cuisine. He likes La Lomita Dos, and says the tamales at Cantina Marina are the best in DC. He also enjoys a good burger and he knows exactly what his dream ingredients are. “Oh that’s easy pimento cheese, thick crispy blackened bacon, jalapeños, maybe some ketchup,” he says.
Rep. Hudson truly believes we need more bipartisanship in Congress and like other members I’ve spoken to, sharing a meal is a good start. For his ideal bipartisan meal, he’d like to share a meal with Congressman Joe Kennedy and Louis Gohmert.
“Well it might be Joe Kennedy at the Red Sox stadium eating a lobster roll. Two things; one there is not enough bipartisanship up here and he and I have become good friends. Secondly, during freshman orientation he took a bunch of us to the stadium for a tour and I had my first lobster roll ever and it was delicious. A close second would be Louie Gohmert if he cooked the ribs. He somehow has the recipe for LBJ’s rib rub and he used to cook ribs here in the Cannon building pretty regularly. So if Louie cooked, I’d have to have some ribs with him.”
Um yeah … I’ll await my invite to that too!
Apart from other Members of Congress, Rep. Hudson says he’d love to have a meal with Redskins quarterback RGIII and his wife. “While I am a Panthers fan,” he says, “I have met RGIII and what a class act. He is a real gentlemen, a real man of character, so I’d like to get to know him better. And his wife is from Boulder and my wife is from Denver and went to school in Boulder, so the two of them have met. And I think a double date with RGIII would be really cool.”
We do too Congressman, and FamousDC is going to get on the Twitter machine and try and make your double-date happen!
I could talk to the Congressman for hours about BBQ, hunting, and everything in-between, but alas he has to run off to another event so we wrap up with the Feasting Famously Fast-Five rapid fire questions where I say a word and he answers with the first thing that comes to mind.
Longworth Café – Freedom fries
Tar Heels – Michael Jordan
Chicken – Fried (my grandmother’s)
Gravy – Biscuits
South Carolina – Charleston shrimp and grits
There you have it folks. Congressman Richard Hudson from North Carolina is a very honest, very real, down to earth person deeply connected with North Carolina, his roots, and his family. With a love of country as great as a love for sweet tea, here’s to hoping he’s back home soon enjoying the great food of NC.