Several years ago I had the fortune to cook a beautiful, fresh summer dinner in a friend's kitchen in their home just outside of Aix en Provence in the south of France. It was there that I first came in contact with one of my very favorite kitchen tools. There are very few things in the kitchen that I consider 'perfect'. These are things that are beautiful, work well every time and are simple in their design. Of course, my AllSpice rack is one of those things, as is my Shun Santoku knife, but what Im referring to here is my Peugeot Pepper Mill. The first time I used this pepper mill, what I noticed first was the smooth, consistent grind, and the lovely feel of the mill in my hand. What I noticed next was the odd branding on the pepper mill. Peugeot? Wasn't that a car company? Peugeot is not a common car brand here in the US, but it is ubiquitous across France.
Three years later, and one well loved Peugeot pepper mill sitting in my kitchen, I finally decided to dive into the history of the Peugeot pepper mill.
In the early 1800's, the Peugeot family owned a flour mill. Around 1810 they converted the flour mill into a steel mill and began making metal tools and household items. They became famous for their saw blades due to a technique that allowed the teeth to stay sharp for much longer. Around 1840, they developed a proprietary grinding system and began producing coffee grinders and pepper grinders. As with their famous saws, they used a technique to keep the metal sharp that allows the grinders to have an almost infinite life.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the family divided. One cousin felt that the company should continue to build tools while the other looked to the future of the automobile. In 1910 the company came back together to focus on manufacturing cars and bicycles. The tool side of the company continued on into the 60s and 70s creating the first food processor and electric coffee grinders. Since then, the company has moved away from household products, but continues to produce pepper mills as a profitable side business. They also recently introduced the Peugeot Design Lab in which they introduce some interesting and futuristic mills and grinders (http://www.peugeot.com/en/design/concept-peugeot-design-lab/peugeot-mills-and-grinders).
If you notice the symbol on every Peugeot product (cars and pepper mills included) is a stylized lion. The lion was a symbol of their region in France, but also carried the symbolism of the mills grinding as strong as a lions jaw.
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