All according to play. Labor election campaign planners will be delighted with how the visit of Barack Obama has turned out. For Prime Minister Julia Gillard it has been one 24-hour-long photo opportunity with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott relegated to being a rather wooden looking sidelight.

The picture of the visit. For me the picture of the first bloke walking home from Parliament House to the Lodge after security for the presidential visit caused a traffic jam shows a great deal that’s good about Australia.

Is there another major country in the world where a Prime Ministerial spouse would just trot off home all alone in such as cheerful and unpretentious fashion. I’m getting to like the bloke!

Let them eat … a toast sandwich. Britain’s Office of National Statistics announced overnight that the country had 2.62 million unemployed people — 1.02 million of them 16 to 24 year olds. That took the unemployment rate overall to 8.3% and for the 16 to 24 year olds to 21.9%. Which made it an appropriate day for the Royal Society of Chemistry to launch what it believes is the cheapest meal to be had anywhere in Britain.

For a West End tasting the Royal Society recreated the toast sandwich (featuring salt and pepper), first promoted by the celebrated Mrs Beeton in her cook book, published 150 years ago next month.

Planning an anniversary feature for its website, the RSC had combed Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management for recipes reflecting her astonishing range, which also addressed meals for less well-off Victorians. Dr John Emsley, of the RSC, said:

“We could have gone for one of the thousands of recipes that Mrs Beeton employed, most of them being table-groaning creations full of meats.

But, given the stern days we are yet to experience, we decided to go for an unknown dish that requires little money and little time, and which she devised to cater for less well-off people.

You simply put a piece of dry toast between two slices of bread and butter, with salt and pepper to taste. I’ve tried it and it’s surprisingly nice to eat and quite filling. I would emphasise that toast sandwiches are also good at saving you calories as well as money, provided you only have one toast sandwich for lunch and nothing else.

The RSC decided to promote Mrs Beeton’s toast sandwich because it might just be what we need to get us through the harsh economic times that are forecast.

Nor need you use butter; margarine will do just as well. That option was not open to Mrs Beeton because she was writing a few years before margarine was invented. That was first produced in France in 1869.

Of course, when we finally emerge from these dark days we will seek something more celebratory from Mrs Beeton’s pantheon of rich recipes to welcome back the good times.”

 A new form of democracy. The Italian government now led  by Prime Minister Mario Monti gives a new meaning to the words democratic government. There is not one elected politician in among the collection of bankers, lawyers and university professors just sworn in.

Opinion divided. The Crikey Interest Rate Indicator shows opinions are almost equally divided on the question of whether the Reserve Bank will further lower interest rates or keep them the same when it meets in December.

Peter Fray

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