Born 70 years ago in a factory in the north of the Côte-d’Or, the Cocotte-Minute revolutionized cooking. Today, 800,000 casseroles are manufactured in the SEB factory in Lorsgey each year. In 1996, the magazine Burgundy Magazine retraced in detail the history of this emblem of Burgundian industry…
Article published in Bourgogne Magazine n°11, November-December 1996.
Seonggey, in the north of the Côte-d’Or, could have lived a peaceful village life. In its history it has only known one rebellion against the armies of Gallas, in 1638. But, 70 years ago, on October 19, 1953, this town of 2,400 inhabitants woke up to the fine sound of a water valve. pressure cooker that will revolutionize the world of domestic cooking. The manufacture of the first pressure cooker (this brand name was not used and registered until 1978) in pressed aluminum has just been launched in the workshops of the Société d’embossing de Bourgogne (SEB), under the SuperCocotte brand. . Thanks to this plume of steam, Lorsgey, once renowned for its tanneries, its brandy, its tinsmithing, its cloth factories and the carillon of its church, also appears in tourist guides for its Cocotte-Minute factory.
The boom after Papin
Before being a commercial success, with around 46 million copies sold since 1953, the casserole dish is first and foremost a technological innovation. Its manufacturing technique by stamping under a press from a circle of aluminum or stainless steel (called a “flan”) allowed it, in a short time, to conquer housewives. The one-piece body, its bracket closing system and its rotating valve have freed the pressure cooker from Denis Papin’s “explosive” pot syndrome.
However, the food digester, which the inventor presented as a device “to soften bones or cook meat” under pressure, is the ancestor of the pressure cooker. Its aim was to make a new method of cooking accessible to everyone. That of Frédéric Lescure, the creator of the Cocotte-Minute SEB, is nearby. In the 1950s, advertisements praised the savings in time and energy, and the dietary qualities of cooking without special supervision, which the utensil provided. The signal given by the valve, which spews its jet of steam, is enough to warn its user who is busy with another task. “ As soon as the Pressure Cooker valve whispers, reduce the heat. Leave to cook for the indicated time. Then release the pressure and remove the cover »: the advice is not given by a master chef, but by the SEB recipe book, which has always accompanied the purchase of all pressure cookers. “ One year after the launch of the Super-Cocotte, we had sold 150,000, or 75% of the potential market in France, at prices half the price of the others. », remembers Emmanuel Lescure, son of the inventor and CEO of the SEB SA group from 1976 to 1990. Even if the SEB range has expanded to include stainless steel, colored casserole dishes and sizes ranging from 2.7 at 12 liters, “ from 1953 to 1996, nothing changed, except changes in detail “, he says. This success also corresponds to a change in morals which did not escape Frédéric Lescure, unlike the thirty or so of his competitors who, using the unreliable technique of casting aluminum or cast iron hulls, gradually abandoned the game. .
The odyssey of the little tinkerer
The story of the Cocotte-Minute intersects that of an Auvergnat. Antoine Lescure, traveling tinsmith, born near Mauriac on November 11, 1807. Before he settled in Lorsgey, where he created. at 49 years old. a company manufacturing tinware, you have to imagine him living in a caravan, going from village to village to re-tin (i.e. cover with tin) copper pots and cauldrons, buckets, tubs and watering cans of tin. A fresco illustrating the tinker’s odyssey from Auvergne to Burgundy was also created by his great-granddaughter, Anne Langlois, in the entrance hall of the factory, in Lorsgey. But legend sometimes catches up with real history. The settling down of this nomad is not due to the fact that his horse died and that he did not have the means to leave again, as rumor has it, but simply because he became an owner in Allezgey on July 17. 1840 (authentic notarial deed). From the small workshop which manufactured, until the 1950s, notably in Rivière-lesFossés, in Haute-Saône, watering cans and milk cans, the Société d’embossing de Bourgogne (SEB) was born in 1926, from the association of three brothers Lescure, Jean. Henri and Frédéric, great-grandchildren of the tinker.
“From the whisper of the valve…”
Thanks to the post-war economic boom, women’s work became more widespread, reducing the time spent at home preparing “good meals”. Housewives no longer feel like they are glued to their stove. A casserole dish allows you to prepare all dishes, from starters to meats, vegetables and even desserts. The rustic recipe for chicken in the pot requires, for example, no more than 25 minutes of cooking per kilo of meat. The time to simmer a beef bourguignon does not exceed 60 minutes. That of the pot-au-feu goes from 4 hours, cooking by stewing, to only 1h30 in the Cocotte-Minute. Unfailingly, cooking times are always calculated “from the whisper of the valve”. This substantial gain allows “ the cook, thus freed, to devote herself to any other activity of her choice, tinkering, reading, looking beautiful or going for a walk », does not hesitate to proclaim the SEB user manual. Cooking in the Cocotte-Minute is therefore becoming a more relaxed way of life, consecrating society as leisure.
The casserole also played a certain role in gender equality, by encouraging men to be more present behind the stove. For Frédéric Lescure and his two associated brothers, Jean and Henri, it is about conquering a modern and active audience. The sales arguments are simple: “ less expense, time saved, better cooking “. “ Simply turn off the gas or electric hob 10 minutes before the end of the indicated cooking time and leave to simmer on its own for additional energy savings », recommends Anne Langlois, sister of Frédéric, one of the first to have experimented and then regularly used the Super-Cocotte. However, the culinary habits of the past, which left dishes simmering on the stove for a long time, are difficult to lose. Doesn’t she remember one day forgetting a roast rabbit on the fire, long enough to go to Sunday mass, and finding it all burnt? The laborious learning of the Pressure Cooker demonstrated, in these circumstances, the speed of cooking food…
A prejudice against pressure cookers, considered dangerous, persisted for a long time. Some women in the country, for fear that an “explosive” misfortune would occur while using the Pressure Cooker, operated it in a room away from their home. However, maintaining the device is more demanding than that of a simple pot. Rubber seals must, for example, remain perfectly airtight. For the first use of an aluminum pressure cooker, it once contained boiling milk, in order to prevent the walls from blackening. Today, the sachet of baking soda poured into the first bath has the same use.
The song of the casserole
The Super-Cocotte quickly became famous and took part in major popular gatherings, such as the Tour de France. “ A giant casserole dish, made by a skillful worker from the Rivière workshop, was perched on the roof of a 403 which traveled the roads of France », remembers Anne Langlois. Songs were also embroidered, naively singing of his glory, his passing misfortunes and his virtues. The one written by Frédéric Lescure, for example, deplores in a contemporary tune that the 1954 Household Arts Fair refused him a stand. The refrain of his sister, on the other hand, cheerfully recommends to Saint Eloi, patron of tinsmiths, “ the little song of the SuperCocotte SEB in Lorsgey “.
The adventure of metal stamping had, however, begun 50 years earlier, in 1900, with the purchase, by the Lescure family, of a stamping press to manufacture tinplate articles: heaters, colanders, watering cans, etc. The factory was successively managed by Jean Lescure, then by his son René. The following generation of Lescures was essentially represented by the three brothers: Jean, Frédéric and Henri, out of a family of 10 children. Their association, fraternal in the true sense of the term, gave birth, in 1926, to the Société d’embossing de Bourgogne, the famous SEB. As for the improvements made, they followed the external growth of the According to Geese company. The acquisition, for example, in 1968, of Tefal, inventor of the non-stick coating, made it possible to improve the quality of casseroles.
But the new generation of pressure cookers is increasingly distant from the original model. In 1993, a device with non-stick interior walls appeared on the bustling family cooking market. The rotating valve and the stirrup closing system have disappeared. The latest from SEB even has a window to monitor cooking. Another development, of a social nature: she got rid of the cliché of the housewife preparing good meals. It has also adapted to the predominantly single-parent society, with small models for single people. “ The traditional Pressure Cooker, however, still remains the most sold, even if another, more advanced generation exists. », explains Jean-Jacques Ligny, director of the pressure cooker department. One of the reasons for this unwavering fidelity is undoubtedly the observed longevity of the machine, which is estimated at around twenty years on average. It’s not so easy to change a winning casserole.