How to insult: Shoe or Vegemite?

vegemiteTo express unhappiness with a public figure, such as a President or Prime Minister, one of the non-verbal methods sometimes used is to throw something at that person.  In 2008 an Iraqi journalist hurled both his shoes, one after another, at President Bush, in protest against the Iraq War. In many cultures, showing the sole of one’s shoe is an insult, as is throwing a shoe.  There is a long list of shoeing incidents listed by Wikipedia, mostly directed at politicians in the Middle East and India. This week it was Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard who was attacked, but not by a shoe – by a Vegemite sandwich. It was thrown at her by a school child as she was visiting a school. It’s hard to tell if there was anything symbolic in choosing a sandwich – most likely it was just what was at hand.  Gillard is deeply unpopular at the moment in Australia and the sandwich toss may be a reflection of that fact.

What’s Vegemite?  If you’re Australian you wouldn’t need to ask.  It’s as popular there as peanut butter is in the U.S. or Nutella (a chocolate nut spread) is in Germany.  Like those foods, it is a sandwich spread, made from yeast (a by-product of beer brewing) and vegetable paste. Generally, I think of food as a great way to ease intercultural communication, but in the case of Vegemite, unless you ate it as a child, you are not likely to be a fan, as the video clip below between President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard illustrates:

Speaking of food, there was a wonderful article this week in the Guardian on how much an average family spends on food per week, with great pictures – amazing range of cost and volume of food consumed.

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