As a national television audience watched last month, President Reagan used part of his State of the Union address to berate Congress for sending him catchall spending bills laden with pork barrel benefits for "cranberry research, blueberry research, the study of crawfish, and the commercialization of wild flowers."

The president then laid down a challenge for the Democratic-controlled Congress: In 30 days he would send a formal request to Congress to rescind billions of dollars in such wasteful spending. "By acting and approving this plan," Reagan said, "you have the opportunity to override a congressional process that is out of control."

Yesterday, before a sparsely attended meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the president's budget director said, in effect, that they were just kidding.

Office of Management and Budget Director James C. Miller III told the committee that because some lawmakers had suggested that any formal request for rescinding the appropriations would violate the budget summit agreement of last fall, the White House would not submit a formal request.

"He will not be asking for formal rescissions," Miller said. "The president will be sending up a package that identifies those items in the {budget bill} that he would have marked through if he had had a line-item veto, but it won't be in the form of rescissions . . . . Essentially we are leaving it up to you."

The administration apparently had no such concerns last month about the sanctity of last year's deficit agreement, which set overall spending levels for defense and nondefense programs.

In his State of the Union speech, the president argued that congressional review of "this multibillion-dollar package . . . will not undercut our bipartisan budget agreement."

At the hearing, Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (Ore.), the panel's ranking Republican, also disputed the administration's definition of pork barrel projects.

Arguing that the special projects in last year's omnibus appropriations bill "really add up to a hill of beans," Hatfield said that "congressional initiatives are identified as pork, but administration initiatives are identified as good government."

An example of such good government, Hatfield said, is the administration's request in its fiscal 1989 budget for $7 million to pay for leather flight jackets for military pilots.

Right on cue, Miller defended the proposed expenditure, saying it is a cost-effective way to boost morale in the armed services.