It hardly matters what's being served (simply dressed greens, strawberries and cold whipping cream, cardboard)—top a plate or bowl with freshly cracked black pepper from a proper grinder and it will take on an air of sophistication. Become something to sit down to. Wine might appear on cue.
And when you picture such a showering, the grinder you'll inevitably envision will have a bulbous noggin, a series of protruding curves down its sides, the sheen of silver or glossy white paint or the heft of old wood. What you're picturing is a Peugeot.
In honor of the fact that we just launched six of Peugeot's iconic pepper grinders in our Shop—Paris Chef USelect mills (their iconic silhouette) in brushed stainless steel, wood, black, and white; small silver-plated replicas of their very first pepper mills; and a hand-cranked grinder named for the Michelin-starred chef Olivier Roellinger—we decided to bring you some snippets from the history of these designs.
Here are 3 things you probably didn't know about Peugeot and their iconic pepper mills.
In 1810, brothers Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frederic Peugeot converted the family flour mill into a steel foundry, dubbing the new business with their surname. The teeth on their saw blades were individually cut before the whole blade was case-hardened, making them stronger and more long-lasting than competitors' saws—a technology that won the company early accolades.
By 1840, Peugeot was manufacturing coffee grinders using advances in the same technology, and in 1874 their first pepper grinder—the Z model—was put on the market. Our silver-plated Peugeots are replicas of this early design, and have a surprising heft despite their small stature. (The first Peugeot automobile, the type 3, didn't come on the scene until 1891 when it became the first car to be driven in Italy.)
Before 1874, the year Peugeot introduced the Modèle Z, people ground pepper using a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. And while Peugeot doesn't claim that they were the first to invent a pepper mill—"there's no proof of that," their brand manager Marie admits openly—it's commonly assumed and insinuated (such as here, here, and here) because that's the precise moment the devices started hitting the market.
Perhaps more famous for being emblazoned on Peugeot's automobiles, which have a certain feline characteristic to their shape, than on their tabletop tools, the Peugeot lion was designed with their famous grinder in mind. A lion's jaws symbolize "the durability, the innovation, the speed, [and] the superiority" of Peugeot's grinder mechanism, according to Marie, which cracks open a peppercorn using two rows of teeth configured in a helix shape.
The lion was first developed for Peugeot in 1850, trademarked in 1958, and has been through a series of modernizations to bring it to its currently slinky, prowling state. Their grinder technology and the breadth of offered pepper mill silhouettes has likewise progressed: Peugeot's curvaceous "Paris" pepper mill—the one you picture from that vision of a French restaurant—was introduced in 1987, and in 2004 that they invented a system that would allow you to adjust the coarseness (or fineness) of the grind, called "U'Select."
So when I say that We've just launched six different Peugeot pepper mills in our Shop!, I'm not implying that they're newfangled in any way—quite the opposite. Perfected and honed over the better part of a century, the parts that make Peugeot's pepper mills so beloved are a blend of original award-winning designs, modern tastes, and decades of innovation. And they come with a lifetime guarantee, so it's not as if you'll ever need another!
Do you have a Peugeot pepper grinder? If yes, tell us what you love about it in the comments!