The malty, yeast extract spread Vegemite was at the center of what nearly proved to be a catastrophic international incident Sunday, reports The Telegraph. Much like the paste, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd felt salty and bitter after being detained by U.S. Customs when he tried to bring a jar of Vegemite onto a plane.
Rudd spreads Vegemite diplomacy
As anyone who has heard the 1981 Men at Work song “Land Down Under” knows, Vegemite is an Australian staple. To deny an Australian his Vegemite is akin to telling an American he can’t have apple pie and watch baseball. Thus, Kevin Rudd wouldn’t let go of his Vegemite without spreading some diplomacy.
According to reports, Rudd was attempting to fly from Mexico to New York to speak about the United Nations General Assembly. U.S. Customs believed the Vegemite was a “potentially dangerous liquid,” and Rudd took it upon himself to set the Yanks straight.
“Only problem traveling to NY is that they tried to confiscate our Vegemite at the airport. Needed Foreign Ministerial intervention,” Rudd tweeted. “Airport staff were surprised when I said it is good for you & I ate it for breakfast. They then waved me through.”
What Rudd didn’t say in his Twitter feed is that it required special intervention from the Mexican Foreign Service to convince American Customs officials to let the Vegemite onto the plane. Reports indicate the U.S. officials didn’t go so far as to try the Vegemite before returning it to Rudd.
Obama not a fan of Vegemite
Back in March, President Obama hosted Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the White House. During the visit, Obama noted he things Vegemite is “horrible,” which offended many Aussies who grew up with the ubiquitous brown paste. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that former Australian Prime Minister John Howard once said that more Australians knew the lyrics of a Vegemite advertising jingle than those of the nation’s national anthem.
Yet not all Aussies were behind Kevin Rudd during the international Vegemite incident. Noted Australian TV presenter Wil Anderson tweeted some critical words directed at Rudd, suggesting that Rudd was shilling for Vegemite and using its popularity to spread his own:
“Did they also try to take his hat with corks, boomerang and I Love Phar Lap badge?” Anderson tweeted.
Cork hats and boomerangs are widely associated with Australian culture, while Phar Lap was a famous Australian race horse in the late 1920s/early 1930s.
The Land Down Under and Vegemite
Australian cork hat eHow: http://www.ehow.com/about_6529426_australian-cork-hat_.html
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/18/kevin-rudds-vegemite-near_n_968424.html
Phar Lap Skwirk page: http://bit.ly/mS0m5z
The Telegraph: http://tgr.ph/nIUsaV
Vegemite Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegemite
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