The Esky is hitting old age

Australians love the great outdoors.  There are pretty good reasons why, for instance, Australia has a lot of outdoors, much of it in remote places, but mostly Australians like to go to the beach, go camping in the bush, have a barbecue or even just invite friends around to home.

Australia, for most of the year, has a hot climate.  One of the problems associated with the great outdoors is that food can go off pretty quickly and, more importantly, drinks can’t get cold – and in Australia, you need drinks to be cold.  It may be ok to have drinks at room temperature when it is ) degrees, but try drinking anything at room temperature when it’s 40 plus (I’m talking Centigrade here), and all you’ll do is burn your tongue.

Aussies are also pretty inventive, especially when it involves drinking.  For instance, what are we going to do with all that yeast that’s left over from beer making?  Simple!  We turn it into Vegemite and spread it on toast (ok, Vegemite is an acquired taste, but once you do get it, you are hooked).  How do you get bulk wine to your remote campsite and keep it fresh without having to cart around breakable bottles?  We invented the wine cask – voila! Bulk wine in unbreakable packaging, and when you’ve finished you can blow up the bladder to use as a pillow.

So how to you keep food and drinks cold when you’re travelling?  You take a portable cooler with you!

In 1952 a Sydney refrigeration company, Malley’s, invented and marketed a clever steel cooler which they called the Esky (in homage Eskimos).  All you did was place your food and drinks inside and pour over ice, and there you had it, a portable fridge that was robust enough to go anywhere, and didn’t require an external power source.  The Esky proved to be so popular that by 1960 it’s believed that half-a-million Australian households owned one.  And in 1960 that was a fairly large proportion of households.

Since then, there’s been huge developments in Esky technology – now they are made of plastic, have increased and decreased in size so that they can be large enough to cater for lots of guests, or small enough for you to take to work with your lunch in it.  Now they have wheels so you don’t have to carry them, and an Esky full of drinks and ice can be a struggle to lift, and when your Esky is empty it doubles for a wicket when playing backyard cricket.  The humble Esky is now a true symbol of Australia.

And like many Australian symbols, such as Vegemite and the copyright to the song Waltzing Matilda, it’s now owned by Americans.

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