A pair of sixty-oners they may be but two things Julia Gillard and US President, Barack Obama definitely do not share are: a love of Vegemite, and an understanding of Australian rules football.

So I don't suppose you need an AFL adviser do you? Picture: Supplied

Or perhaps that should be an understanding of Vegemite, and a love of Australian rules.

Either way, both came to the fore yesterday as one 49 year old ribbed the other for nearly busting a valuable Oval Office statue of an American icon and beloved saviour of the Union, Abraham Lincoln.

In a moment of shared irreverence hard to imagine with past combinations of leaders, Ms Gillard had backed up her gift to the President of a new Sherrin football, with instruction on the basics: kicking and hand-balling - and she’d done it in the stately Oval Office no less.

And while the Americans failed to grasp the nuances of the game, there was much appreciation for the effort.

``I’ve been trying to describe it to the President,’’ Ms Gillard told puzzled school students later at a Virginia High School as she and the President took questions.

``It can be a bit hard to understand.’‘

Clearly, it was not successful as the official White House record shows with the transcript recording the term, hand-bowling, instead of ``hand-balling

``She brought me an Australian football,’’ the bemused President told them, warming to the theme.

``She was kicking it in my office. (Laughter.) Almost broke a bust of Lincoln.

``That’s not true, guys, just making that up,’’ he added feigning fear of sparking a diplomatic incident.

But on Vegemite, the niceties disappeared entirely. Word has it that the one-time Indonesian resident, had once had an Australian girlfriend and she had tried to feed young ``Barry’’ as he was known then, the cultural cornerstone.

``It’s horrible,’’ he told the students after one had asked Ms Gillard what on earth it was.

``It’s actually a by-product of making beer, apparently,’’ she added in a futile attempt to defend national honour impugned.

``It’s a yeast paste. I’m making this sound really good, aren’t I? (Laughter.) It’s black, and it’s quite salty.

`` The beginner’s error with Vegemite is to put too much on a piece of bread or piece of toast. You don’t put it on like jam or anything like that. You’ve got to do it very lightly, spread it very thinly, and it’s good.’‘

But the Big O, like the students, was having none of it.

``So it’s like a quasi-vegetable-by-product paste—(laughter)—that you smear on your toast for breakfast. Sounds good, doesn’t it?’’

Er, ah, no, now that you put it that way, it sounds fairly appalling.

So, after the obligatory reference to all the cultural sterotypes (Crocodile Dundee was mentioned earlier in the day by a US military official at a speech at the Lincoln Memorial) the score-line is clear.

Sherrin 1. Vegemite nil. I guess that’s why they called it ``The Oval Office’‘.

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    • Michael says:

      02:22pm | 09/03/11

      What is it with politicians always trying to present a sporty image?

      Whether it’s Julia and Obama playing football or John Howard bowling a cricketball it looks stupid. Sport is a pure meritoracy and politics is about pandering to the weak and lazy for votes. The two do not and should not mix.

    • fairsfair says:

      03:17pm | 09/03/11

      That Howard bowl was comedy gold though. I’m glad he did it for that reason alone!

    • Shifter says:

      04:41pm | 09/03/11

      Julia looks fairly competent in the picture above, and she’s a massive Bulldogs fan. We know Barry’s a baller and quite a fit man to boot. I don’t see it as a problem presenting such an image as long as it’s not faked.

      I know I’m a massive sports fan, but unlike the ‘stupid’ referenced in a previous punch article, I’m not going to vote for Liberal or Labor based on their leader’s love of a game.

    • Bitten says:

      02:41pm | 09/03/11

      Vegemite is indeed a deeply polarising condiment. And now I feel like some. On a Sao. Dammit, Punch!

    • fairsfair says:

      03:18pm | 09/03/11

      much like ginger marmalade…. a polarisng condiment indeed.

    • fairsfair says:

      02:49pm | 09/03/11

      Tis an acquired taste alright. Like sushi - I had to ease myself into that. I started with the inside out rolled stuff before I could go your standard roll. Can’t get enough of it now.

      People fail to recognise Vegemite’s uses in cooking though. The cooler months are almost upon us, whack a teaspoon in your next casserole or shepherds pie type concoction. Or, next time you have baked beans on toast, have baked beans on vegemite on toast. You’ll thank me.

      As for AFL - I don’t understand the “nuances” of that game and I’m strayan.

    • Tator says:

      03:56pm | 09/03/11

      Personally, don’t really like the stuff on toast, but add it to a good gravy and it adds so much bite and flavour.  To paraphrase Remy from Pixars Ratatouille, its not just the flavour of one item that makes it special, it is the way the flavours mix and combine in your mouth that makes it special.

    • AdamC says:

      02:54pm | 09/03/11

      That’s a fantastic picture. It is such a shame that Gillard is otherwise so incompetent that her myriad failures obscure trivial successes like these.

      Them’s the breaks, I suppose.

    • stevie p says:

      05:46pm | 09/03/11

      What a couple of posers and losers. The two most unpopular leaders currently in the western world. Only one is a liar though and that’s the one about to try and catch the ball.

    • Wilma J Craig says:

      06:15pm | 09/03/11

      How pathetic! How demeaning! How immature! How low does this damned woman want to drag Australia?
      She is supposedly, but admittedly only thanks to 3 rather stupid Independent Federal MPs, the Prime Minister of Australia.
      There is a time and place for childish, stupid behaviour - not to mention childish, stupid “gifts”
      The British Press have asked that clown prince Andrew Mountbatten-Windsor if, as a result of his involvement with the convicted US paedophile Epstein, “Are you an embarrassment, Sir?”
      We don’t have to ask Joooolya Gillard if she is now an embarrasment. She has clearly demonstrated that she is.
      By the by, When she arrived in the US she was photographed being “greeted” by an unsmiling Kym Beazley on the steps of her plane.
      A photo splashed across almost every newspaper in Australia.
      Why the hell was her partner standing there giving the royal wave? Just who does he think he is & to whom was he waving?
      This entire adventure has been a massive embarrassment to us all.
      Oh! Jooolya, for god’s sake get a decent fashion advisor! It’s no wonder Barack kept his ever-fashionable, elegant Michelle out of reach of the cameras.

    • deb says:

      06:24am | 10/03/11

      Our Julia looks so uncomfortable in those clothes,or does she have a back problem? All those knifes sticking in there no doubt.
      As for the staged photos,yuck!

    • JACKO says:

      06:40am | 10/03/11

      A young Ozzy secratree in Washington told us Jules dropped the ball almost as often as she does here AND Barmy had stacked the house with office boys and girls who got a free Vegemite sandwich if they “polished up, turned up, shut up, stood up and then yelled up”. The kids wanted to know if all Ozzy dignitaries travelled with their own hairdresser!!!
      The younger generation sure are shameful.

    • Old Clive says:

      08:31am | 10/03/11

      We must be the laughing stock of S.E Asia.

    • rufus says:

      02:35pm | 10/03/11

      s long as it wasn’t a mouth full (while Tim Tam wasn’t watching) like old Bill got once too often.


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