Australian Foreign Minister Stopped Over Veggie Spread

By ABC News

Sep 19, 2011 12:06pm

Reported by Seniboye Tienabeso:

Just because it’s a national treasure, and you are the Australian foreign minister, doesn’t mean that U.S. Customs officials will allow you to  bring in a food that many here consider to be, well, an acquired taste.

Kevin Rudd was briefly detained by U.S. Customs officials after they noticed a suspicious-looking  jar he had with him  that was filled with Vegemite.  Rudd – traveling to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly — jokingly tweeted that he “needed foreign ministerial intervention” to get Vegemite  past customs.  “Airport staff were surprised when I said it is good for you, and I ate it for breakfast. They then waved me through.”

For those unfamiliar with Vegemite, think of it as the Australian version of peanut butter and jelly, with the taste of neither peanut butter nor jelly. It is an extremely popular dark brown food paste made from yeast extract that is put on sandwiches and toast. Aussies have been trying to export it here for years.

In the 1981 chart-topper “Down Under” by Men At Work, the group crooned about its favorite paste. “I said, Do you speak-a my language?  He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.” Americans passed.

Some have compared the taste of Vegemite taste to Vaseline. President Obama simply called it “horrible.” It may be the only thing that Democrats and Republicans  agree with the president on. While  Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard touted their “shared values” and “close bond” earlier this year, Obama risked creating a rift when he blasted Vegemite during a Q and A with a group of 11th graders.

“It’s like a quasi-vegetable byproduct paste. That you smear on your toast for breakfast,” Obama said, adding, with  sarcasm,   ”Sounds good doesn’t it?”

Gillard shot back, saying that this  byproduct  of  beef manufacturing  should be applied lightly, and that was where most people went wrong. “You don’t put it on like jam. … You do it very lightly and spread it very thinly.”

It’s unclear whether Vegemite will be on the menu when the president travels to Australia in November. But this week at the U.N.,  the strong bond between both countries could be tested. Like many of America’s strongest allies, Australia – which  is not on the Security Council – may have to take a position on giving Palestine U.N. membership.  This is something both the U.S. and Israel strongly oppose,  fearing   it could derail an already stalled peace process.

Rudd, before traveling to New York, recently wrote to Gillard recommending that Australia abstain in any vote that may be taken up by the General Assembly.

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