Christmas, 2011: My boss had given me a $75 gift certificate to Amazon. I needed a pepper grinder. After lunch, I climbed into bed with my laptop, figuring I’d put two and two together. Hours later, I was still in bed, still browsing. Every grinder I came across was deeply flawed: flimsy acrylic, annoyingly high-tech, or white-tablecloth rustic. I gave up in disgust. It wasn’t until summertime that I solved the problem, and I didn’t solve it myself: As a wedding gift, a friend bought me an Atlas Pepper Mill. It is the best.
Of course the Atlas performs all of the basic functions you would expect from a pepper grinder: It grinds pepper evenly. It holds a lot of peppercorns. And it alleviates liberal guilt; because it’s handmade in Greece, you can feel good about supporting that country’s fumbling economy.
But the Atlas Pepper Mill’s true merits are more subtle, more aesthetic. It’s neither restaurant-blah nor Sharper-Image futuristic (like this Cuisinart mill that requires electricity). Brass-, copper-, or chrome-plated (I have the copper), with delicate floral reliefs, it looks like a tool you’d find at an archaeological dig and — for just that reason — always attracts attention at dinner parties. Once a guest asked if it was a family heirloom. Another guest asked where I had found it — but in a tone suggesting, Where on earth did you find that? Like, maybe at a garage sale in a foreign country? She was disappointed when I told her the mill was available on Amazon. Best of all, the Atlas is fun to use. Cranking the little handle at the top to grind tough peppercorns is oddly visceral, like driving a stick shift when you’re accustomed to an automatic.
Five years later, after near-daily use, I’m still happy with it.
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