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Before Peugeot ever built a compact car, or even a chic bicycle, it revolutionized the pepper mill. The year was 1842 and the spice-altering innovation was a crack-and-grind system that split the peppercorn in half and then crushed it, making for a finer finished product. (Inferior models skip the first part of the process and go straight to pulverization.) I discovered the Peugeot mill at the Maison & Objet show in Paris just last year—better late than never. The fair included a section dedicated to kitchen arts, and when I grilled the presenters on the best knife, porcelain, or pie pan, the one appliance they unanimously rated as their favorite was the Peugeot pepper mill. No other gadget has graced my table since. The patented mechanism is found within dark wood, light wood, stainless-steel, and acrylic cases of many shapes and sizes, making perfectly Peugeot-ground pepper available in every eating area from casual kitchen to formal dining room. The knob at the top also allows for variety: Keep it loose for a coarse grind or tighten it for a more delicate spice.

The ultimate mill requires equally exceptional pepper. I was amused to discover that during a Visigoth conquest of Rome in A.D. 408, the invaders held the city at bay until it paid a ransom of gold, silver, and 3,000 pounds of black pepper. Had I been there, I would have specifically demanded Williams-Sonoma’s Five Pepper Blend.

Peugeot pepper mills available at Sur La Table, 800-243-0852. Williams-Sonoma Five Pepper Blend, $15 per 4.2 ounces; 877-812-6235.

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