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Here we'll let you know about many of our famous Aussie icons.

THONGS

A summer staple that cuts across race, religion, sex, style and social status, the almighty thong is one of the world's great levellers  -  By Chris Sheedy

(Story courtesy of Sunday Life Magazine, Sun-Herald 19 Dec 2004)

              

                                                                                                                         Kylie Minogue on a giant thong at the Sydney 2000 Closing Ceremony

                                                                                                                                            Photo is courtesy of newsphotos.com.au

A pair of thongs can be many things to many people.   They've been called the mashed potato of the fashion world, they've suffered the accusation of being an Australian national symbol of bad taste and, finally, they've entered the world of high fashion.

There is no single point in time when thongs were invented - since man first wrapped his feet in animal hide, they have simply developed as one of the most basic forms of footwear..   Thongs have appeared in several guises, in every corner of the globe, and are one of the only forms of footwear worn by every social class of every nation.

Just as Australian beachgoers wear thongs to protect their feet from the scorching sand so did ancient Egyptians don thongs in the desert more than 5000 years ago.   A sandal found in Oregon has been estimated to be about 9000 years old and rock paintings from more than 15,000 years ago show evidence of foot coverings.

In a paper on the history of thongs, written by Cameron Kippen at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, it's reported that the soles of primitive thongs and sandals were made from animal hide, leaves, bark or wood.   A 3500-year-old pair of papyrus sandals is currently on exhibit at the British Museum.

As much as we'd like to think thongs are as Australian as meat pies and Holdens, the modern thongs with a rubber sole were first produced in New Zealand in 1957 and are now as likely to be seen on the feet of fashionistas in New York and rickshaw drivers in alleyways of Bangkok as on beachgoers in Australia.

Since their original production, thongs have changed very little in their design but slap on a brand name and the price tags take on a life of their own.   While you can pick up a pair of plain Havaiana thongs for about $17, Burberry flip-flops can be found for $108, Helmut Lang for a mere $160 and Gucci for $315.   Now that's burning rubber.

Time Line

3000BC  Egyptians wear early versions of thongs made from papyrus or palm leaves.

1957       New Zealander Maurice Yock invents the "jandal", believed to be the first thong with a rubber sole.

2000       During the Sydney Olympic Games closing ceremony, Kylie Minogue is hauled towards centre stage on a giant thong.

2002       Sarah Michelle Gellar wears thongs with her wedding dress as she marries Freddie Prinze Jr.

2004       American super twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen put their name behind a pair of sheepskin-lined thongs, perfect for a mild winter.

WANT YOUR OWN PAIR OF AUSSIE FLAG OR ROAD SIGN DESIGN THONGS?        


VEGEMITE

 

    

The uninitiated spread it with abandon  - and then gasp with horror - but to those who have grown up with it, Vegemite on toast tastes like home

By Chris Sheedy     (Story courtesy of Sunday Life Magazine, Sun-Herald 23 Jan 2005)

In every culture, there are foods locals adore and from which outsiders recoil.   The French love escargot.   On Thanksgiving Day, Americans devour candied yams.   Even the most cultured Italian salivates at the thought of tripe in a white wine and tomato sauce.   We Australians have bottled our internationally reviled obsession.   It's a gooey, black substance, similar in appearance to axlegrease, and it sits proudly in eight out of 10 Australian pantries.

The first jar of the product now known as Vegemite was labelled "pure vegetable extract" by food technologist Dr Cyril P. Callister.   The Fred Walker Company, which produced, sold and exported cheese (and eventually became Kraft Foods Ltd), had hired Callister in 1922 to create a foodstuff from waste brewer's yeast obtained from Melbourne's Carlton & United Breweries.   Yeast cells were taken from a beer vat and washed before being broken down by enzymes, allowing vitamins, minerals and proteins to leach out into the liquid.   It was then concentrated into a thick paste and seasoned with salt and vegetable extracts such as onion and celery.

A national naming competition followed, offering 50 pounds to the winner - an enormous amount at the time.   But although it was launched with much fanfare in 1923, Vegemite did not immediately seduce the Australian palate and, in 1928, poor sales convinced Walker  to change the name to Parwill in an attempt to piggyback on the success of Britain's Marmite ("If Marmite, then Parwill").

Thankfully, Walker reverted to the original name and in 1937, after two years of giving away a free jar of Vegemite with other Fred Walker products, the nation was finally hooked.   But Walker, who died of heart failure in 1935, never witnessed Vegemite's success.

During World War II, Australian troops were kept well fed with Vegemite, creating great goodwill towards the brand.   After the war, its high levels of vitamin B made it a favourite with mums.   Today we consume almost 23 million jars of Vegemite a year and the dark spread is found in one out of every three sandwiches eaten.

Time Line

1893    Vegemite creator Cyril P. Callister is born on February 16.

1923    Vegemite debuts on the grocer's shelf and receives a lukewarm reception.

1928    Vegemite's name is changed to Parwill.

1942    So much Vegemite is needed to feed the troops during World War II that it's rationed for the civilian market at home.

1954    A singing trio called the Happy Little Vegemites is heard on the radio and becomes part of Australian culture.

1984    The first product to be electronically scanned at an Australian supermarket is a jar of Vegemite.

For more information about Vegemite, check out the Vegemite website

If you'd game enough to sample Vegemite yourself, just follow this link