Monday, 9 September 2013

Democracy sausage trended for good reason

Parliament has often been called a sausage factory for legislation but the community groups who set up barbecues outside polling booths on Saturday probably never thought of such an analogy. For them, selling sausages wrapped in a slice of wholesome white bread was merely a way to raise funds: you have a steady stream of mid-morning voters, a beautiful spring day, an irresistibly low price. Bingo!

When I went to vote down the street at the community centre I saw a man intently occupied with the terribly important job of looking after the onions. I only had a $50-dollar note so I had to cadge a gold coin from my mother to buy a sausage. It turned out to be delicious, just the thing to dissipate the hunger pangs of 9.30am; a magpie eyed me crossly as I walked back to the car. But when I got home and got online I was startled to see the number of posts in socmed from people who had snapped photos of the offerings they had found at their own polling booths. Not just democracy sausage (like the example shown here from erstwhile blogger and Guardian journalist @grogsgamut) but biscuits shaped like the then-PM and the then-leader of the Opposition complete with budgie smugglers and nerdy glasses, second-hand book stalls, and chocolate peanut clusters like the one @julieposetti snapped.

From @saraheburnside we learned: "North Perth Primary has a sausage sizzle, cake stall and mini-fete including second-hand books. Recommended voting location."

The culinary component of the Australian election booth was quickly an opportunity for humour, as @gavindfernando also found: "Not a huge sausage sandwich fan, but bought one figuring it's the most funding those public schools will receive if Abbott wins." For her part, @beth_blanchard came up with her own cheeky take on the phenomenon: "Well I *would* post a pic of the sausage sizzle I enjoyed too but it looks rude so I'm not. You can all just imagine." Crikey journalist @bernardkeane saw fit to remark: "and the bellwether sausage sizzle is?" Even from the far north, @theNTnews tweeted: "EXIT POLLS SHOW SAUSAGE ON BREAD LEADS MOST NT BOOTHS, STEAK SANGA HANGING IN THERE, SALAD ROLL SUPPORT TOTALLY COLLAPSED."

Good weather, a bunch of people always ready to add a touch of pleasure to whatever they are doing - that vaunted Australian hedonism - and a tokenistic monetary outlay - $2 is small change, after all - meant that the term 'sausage' was soon trending on Twitter for Australia and the trend even had its own hashtag in #sausagesizzle. Later #snagvotes would emerge to exemplify our desire for alternatives when it comes to democracy regardless of how similar they turn out to be. Socmed is all about sharing - and the number of posts showed how engaged we were that day - but the sausage sizzle is also a demotic nod to the role food plays in bringing people together in a spirit of fellowship; think of the loaves and the fishes or the last supper.

Brit @kathviner editor of Guardian Australia tweeted: "Love the celebratory vibe of an Australian election.. sizzles, cake stalls, face-painting, amazing." I think it's suitable to leave the final word to an outsider. Sometimes we are too close to the things that surround us to know they are special. It can take the fresh eyes of the foreigner to see what is bleedingly obvious: give Australians a sunny day and the outdoors and they'll soon be eating something.

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