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Tools & Gadgets: The Joys of the Daily Grind

Found in a Parisian flea market, this Peugeot pepper mill dates back to the 1940s

A few weeks back, I received an email from Sur La Table regarding some very special merchandise.  Several times a year, they make pilgrimages throughout Europe to keep themselves “immersed in the culinary culture”. (I know what you’re thinking: Nice work if you can get it. Right?)  This year they rummaged amongst the thousands of stalls at Marche aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, Paris’ most famous flea market, and return to the states with armfuls of kitchen antiques including this handsome 1940’s pepper mill by Peugeot.

That’s right.  Long before Peugeot built cars, they made coffee and spice grinders – good ones. They’re still making them today, albeit most of them are the more common handheld cylindrical type. In fact, if you’re willing to part with anywhere from $30 to $100, you can purchase one of the best pepper mills money can buy, and believe me, the joys of a good pepper mill are like those of a good knife. You need only try them one once to be sold. This little baby, however,  will set you back $200, but considering all that exhausting leg work the poor folks at Sur La Table had to go through to get it, it’s a bargain.

If you’re interested, don’t bother logging onto surlatable.com to put your order in. Even if you can find where it’s tucked away on their site, you’ll see it’s accompanied by a big fat “sold” sign.  That’s because it’s sitting right here with me now. It arrived last week, and it is awesome. The walnut casing is in excellent condition, and the time tarnished copper gears work just find. It rests on my dining room bookshelves next to my cookbooks; iconic proof that when you do something well, it stands the test of time.

There is a small bit of confusion.  Sur La Table calls it a pepper grinder, but other antique sites list it as a coffee grinder.  Indeed, the item does appear to be large enough to grind coffee.  The picture below is of Peugeot’s Nostalgie model coffee grinder which they manufacture today, and, as you can tell, there isn’t a lot of difference. If anyone out there is an expert at these sort of things, I would love to hear from you.  Drop me an email or comment, and I’ll share your insight here.

Speaking of mills and doing things well, the Washington Post featured an interesting story in today’s Food section about Bob Moore, the founder of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Products.  His dedication to quality and his perseverance are inspiring.  You should really check it out.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • domenicacooks April 30, 2011, 5:37 pm


    • David Ellis May 1, 2011, 11:13 pm

      Domenica – If Sur La Table would just give me the job of finding these things, I’d gladly smuggle one back for you. :)

  • carla k. June 16, 2011, 4:19 pm

    my grandmother had one exactly like this in her house. she used it almost every day to grind her coffee. she believed that you didn’t grind it until you were ready to brew it. this was back in the day when everyone drank maxwell house. there were no starbucks. she was always ahead of her time.

  • Elise July 16, 2011, 1:30 am

    Looking for a curry spice grinder, which I saw at the Nice markets in 2008. It is a small round plastic or glass grinder with 4 or 6 compartments for all the different spices to be ground all at once when making curry. Can you help me where could I order one. Cannot see them any where on the net. Sorry did not buy it at the time when holidaying in France.

    • Elise July 16, 2011, 1:44 am

      I have two of these timber grinders, one for coffee and the other one for spices. I don’t think you can use the same grinder for coffee and spices. Coffee would never taste like coffee if you have used it for curry spices as well.

      • David Ellis July 21, 2011, 12:07 pm

        Excellent point. Also keep my coffee and spice grinders separate for that very reason.

    • David Ellis July 21, 2011, 12:05 pm

      Hi Elise,

      Thanks for your comment. Can I get some more detail on the grinder you are seeking. How did the grinder work? Was it electric powered or was there a hand crank mechanism? Was it used or a new device? Were there an names or interesting markings that would help me identify one if I saw it. Let me know, and I’ll see what I can find.


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