Prime Minister Turnbull's eating habits scandalise Australians: It's Piegate

A short video of Australian PM Turnbull brandishing a knife and fork as he dug into a savoury meat pie was uploaded to his Instagram account.
A short video of Australian PM Turnbull brandishing a knife and fork as he dug into a savoury meat pie was uploaded to his Instagram account.PHOTO: TWITTER/BEN FORDHAM

SYDNEY (NYTIMES) - The eating habits of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull are being dissected by his fellow Australians after he made a food faux pas while dining on a meat pie.

For some Australians, his approach to the dish was proof that you are not what you eat, but how you eat it.

During a stop in Tasmania - where he was campaigning for a local candidate - Mr Turnbull brandished a knife and fork as he dug into a savoury meat pie.

A short video of the encounter was uploaded to Mr Turnbull's Instagram account. Viewers quickly took screenshots and shared the images with their own analysis.

How best to eat the beloved staple became an immediate topic of conversation, with many reacting in what can only be described as horror that someone would choose to use a knife and fork to eat a meat pie, which is more commonly handled with one's hands.

Mr Turnbull's manoeuvre, seen by some as an upper-crust approach to a simple (but revered) meal, set off debate on social media sites, with some wondering why the Prime Minister hadn't taken a more direct approach. Before long, it had given birth to a new hashtag: #piegate.

Mr Turnbull's use of cutlery to eat a meat pie has been likened by some to an American using utensils to consume a hot dog. (Former Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain was mocked for doing just that while campaigning in 2015.)

Mr Tony Abbott, who served as Australia's prime minister from 2013 to 2015, nearly caused his own national incident when he sunk his teeth into a raw onion, with the skin still on, while visiting rural Tasmania.

Mr Turnbull's transgression was reminiscent of a classic Australian pie commercial that offered insights into the mindset of some of his critics: People have strong feelings about food, particularly their own local specialties, which is why eating in public can go so wrong for so many politicians.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York ignited outrage from some corners when he picked up a fork and a knife to dive into a slice of pizza, eschewing the city's tradition of the hand-held slice.

A painfully awkward photograph of a former British opposition leader, Mr Ed Miliband, chowing down on a bacon sandwich gave rise to its own meme.

And President Donald Trump on the 2016 campaign trail caused a kerfuffle when he tweeted a photo from aboard his plane in which he was brandishing a knife and fork over a piece of fried chicken.

But despite the initial outcry from some, others were quick to defend Mr Turnbull's use of utensils, maintaining that it was perfectly fine to eat a meat pie with a fork and knife.

An Australian broadcaster, Mr Ben Fordham, received hundreds of responses that carefully dissected Mr Turnbull's approach to pie eating, from his lack of condiments to the accompanying espresso.

But Mr Fordham maintained that there was simply "nothing wrong" with using utensils to eat a pie.