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Munchies

A Brief History of Furious People Attacking Politicians with Food

Food isn't just for eating. Humans have a long history of protesters using food as their weapon of choice. Here's an overview of how eggs, turnips, cream pies, and yogurt have been used as tools of rebellion.

by Mitch Syrett
Mar 25 2014, 6:00pm

Ukrainians protesting the Russian media's selective coverage of the crisis in Crimea (Image by Ilya Varlamov)

Food isn’t just for eating. Just ask the suburban teenagers who use Mentos to make bottle rockets, or the "sploshers" who get hard-ons for baked beans. There's also a long history of protesters using food as their weapon of choice. We’re not talking razor blades embedded inside pizza crusts or watermelons shoved into cannons (although that’d be pretty great), more the old school egg-in-the-face business that makes the recipient of some flying foodstuff look like an absolute tit. Having to wipe a thick film of viscous yolk from your eyes doesn't do wonders for a politician's gravitas.

Launching food missiles has long been a good middle ground for protesters who seek to make more of an impact than they would by handing out pamphlets but who don't quite want to drive a truckload of explosives through the palace gates. Last week, this logic led to the Russian consulate in Odessa resembling the aftermath of a stag do in Bella Italia. Apparently, in both Ukrainian and Russian, to “hang noodles on one's ears” means to be taking the piss, which is exactly what a group of Ukrainians felt that the Russian media were doing with their dubious coverage of the crisis in Crimea. And so they set about covering the fences and gates of the consulate with a healthy portion of noodles, garnished with a few liters of ketchup.

A Ukrainian protester going nuts with the sauce at the Russian consulate (Image by Ilya Varlamov)

The first recorded instance of stickin' it to the man with perishables dates back to 63 AD, when Vespasian, Roman governor of what is now Tunisia and Libya, was pelted with turnips. Protesting punitive policies and general financial hardship, his subjects rained an almighty veg storm down upon him, though there are no records relating to the protesters' accuracy. There’s irony in there somewhere, but, to be fair, turnips make better skull-bruisers than they do soups, so who can blame them? Despite his eventual rise to emperor, it seems foul foods plagued Vespasian to his last day, when he died from a severe case of diarrhea. Incidentally, his belief and wish that “an emperor should die on his feet,” coupled with an extreme case of the shits, must have made for quite an exit.

Protest food has come a long way since the Roman turnip. One of the most brilliant modern-day examples is the cream pie. Beloved of the silent film directors of the early part of the last century, the cream pie was popularized as a form of protest in the 1970s. In fact, there are many activist groups who have based their entire ethos on the cream pie, including Al Pieda, the Biotic Baking Brigade, and the Entartistes, a member of which goes by the name of Pope Tart. You probably wouldn't want to spend much time with these people, but at least there's some flair for wordplay.

One of the earliest and most notable pieings was visited upon Anita Bryant, a pop sensation from 1950s USA who famously hated gays. While trying to rationalize her prejudices at a press conference in 1977, she received a substantial pie to the face from a gay-rights campaigner. Stranger than the pieing itself was the reaction: The thrower was instantly restrained and made to wait while Bryant and her husband fell immediately into prayer, presumably in an attempt to save his gay, pie-throwing soul. Give "cream pie" a quick google nowadays, and perhaps you'll look to the heavens, too, as you're confronted with an array of clowns and gross porn vaginas.

A yogurt-throwing Greek teddy boy being paraded through the streets of Athens (image via exiledonline.com)

For some malcontents, the choice of food is symbolic. The Greek practice of yaourtama, for example, is the act of throwing yogurt over someone as a form of protest. The practice seems to have originated among the Greek teddy boys of the 50s, who took to yogurting the "squares" of their day. The popularity of the trend was accelerated by the introduction of plastic pots (as opposed to ceramic), giving birth to perfect, portable yogurt bombs. It became such an issue that, in 1958, the Greek government introduced the controversial Law 4000 to curb it. Under the law, anyone caught slinging tzatziki or the like at his elders could be arrested, have his head shaved and the turn-ups in his jeans snipped before being paraded through the streets of Athens like a prize cow with weird pants on.

This draconian law was abolished in the 80s, but the power of yaourtama lives on, with the recent economic crisis in Greece sparking a fresh round of both fist and yogurt dousings. In 2012, days after Greek reporter Panagiotis Vourhas interviewed Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris on his show, protesters—apparently aggrieved that Kasidiaris was allowed the airtime—broke into the news studio and gave Vourhas what has to be one of the most accurate and effective yogurtings in history.

Look at it. It just keeps coming:

It's not just the Greeks taking their national cuisine to the frontline, though. You'll probably remember that, back in March 2009, Peter Mandelson copped a face full of green custard due to his support for a third runway at Heathrow. It wasn't quite the Euromaidan—rather, one mumsy woman from a group called Plane Stupid going a bit nuts in a gillet. The whole episode is so awkwardly British I'm surprised they didn't shake hands afterwards. Still, it was a pretty good shot, and there remain only two runways at Heathrow, so it must have done the trick. It is also rumoured that die-hard Diana fans once ambushed Camilla Parker Bowles in a Sainsbury's parking lot and nailed her with bread rolls. Those crazy fuckers.

While the vast majority of history's youth-led food protests have been carried out by progressive types, a group of Australian schoolboys bucked the trend in 2013, when they threw sandwiches at Prime Minister Julia Gillard on two separate occasions. It was argued by Slate that the attacks were deliberately symbolic of the sexist "make me a sandwich" meme, to remind the Prime Minister that a woman's real place is in the kitchen, not bloody parliament! But these were 15-year-old boys, and as frightening as it would be to think that Australia is overrun with teenage misogynists, Gillard laughed off the sandwich assault as "a little act of high jinks."

Still, Gillard is gone now. And you know who the new prime minister of Australia is? A massive misogynist.

But there is one particular food item that surpasses all others in the food-weapons arms race. Loved by anarchists and trick-or-treaters alike is the egg, a.k.a. a portable, well-weighted capsule of explosive, foul-smelling chicken ovum. Another Labor Party OG was involved in one of the most famous eggings of recent times. In 2001, a disgruntled farmer with a mullet threw an egg point-blank at the then-deputy prime minister, John Prescott, in protest against the Blair government's lack of support for farmers. Prescott, a former boxer, responded with a food protest of his own and threw one of his righteous fists of ham into the face of the young Lovejoy lookalike.

Other famous egg receivers ("eggees"?) include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ed Miliband (laughed it off like it happened all the time), David Blaine (egged when he was living in that glass box, so probably too hungry to give a shit), everyone's favorite racist, Nick Griffin (bundled away by security like a hysterical guest on Jerry Springer), and the recently deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Not everyone handles an egging well, or any covering with a foodstuff, even if on camera. Would you, if your eyelashes were sticking together with bits of shell and unfertilized baby chicken? Perhaps it's a measure of an individual's confidence, his ease with his position and the pitfalls that come with it, that determines how well a person handles a run-by egging.

By this logic, Yanukovych had no hope. During his first presidential election campaign he was struck by an egg as he stepped off the bus. After a quick examination of the mess on his jacket, he promptly hit the floor as if he'd been shot. Maybe it was hard-boiled.

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