I always thought the Peugeot brand was associated just with cars and cycles. That is, until the trusty Perspex salt and pepper mills that have accompanied me for more than 30 years gave up the ghost. We toddled off to our nearest kitchen shop at Villefranche-de-Rouergue last week to seek replacements.
Ambiance et Styles is one of my favourite shops. Whoever does the window displays has an eye for design and colour. They can even make a display of vacuum cleaner bags look enticing. The store is crammed full of stylish gadgets that you didn’t know you needed. They also have a separate section with china and glassware to die for.
A lot of their stuff is practical, too. We bought our woodburning stove there nearly 17 years ago, a sturdy Norwegian Jøtul that is still going strong. In fact, it’s one of the best investments we’ve made here. And our jolly Provencal-style plasticised kitchen tablecloth is almost as old: just needs a wipe down to keep it clean.
The selection of salt and pepper mills on offer was pretty impressive. They ranged from traditional styles to state-of-the-art items that looked like mini space modules. They even had electrically-operated models – with a price tag to match.
Looking at the labels, I realised that many of them bore the lion brand of Peugeot, which was a surprise. Having selected suitable replacements for our defunct pair (at a cool €73), I decided to find out more.
The Peugeot brand started off in 1810 when two Peugeot brothers transformed the family grain mill in the Franche-Comté region into a steel foundry. They made saws, springs and steel rods. In 1840, they branched out into coffee mills and in 1874 into pepper mills. In between, they also made crinoline hoops, sewing machines and bicycles.
The experiment with cars began in the 1880s and the vehicle manufacturing side has continued in various guises up to the present day. Cycle and car manufacturing were separated into different companies in 1896, merged again in 1910 and then split apart again later.
Parting of the Ways
I can’t find out exactly when the kitchen appliances part split off from the rest. However, a company called Peugeot Saveurs now makes the pepper and salt mills. They also make traditional style coffee grinders and wine glasses and wine accessories. A far cry from the vehicle production line.
The famous lion brand itself was first used in 1850, depicting a lion standing on an arrow. In 1950, the car and cycle manufacturer changed to the lion rampant that is still the logo today, although it’s now more stylised. Peugeot Saveurs still uses the lion and arrow logo.
I will look at my salt and pepper mills through different eyes in future.
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