Get Yer Peanuts, Rice, Grits and Benne Wafers Here

vendingI’m not much for year-end round-ups and awards, but this machine is – without a doubt – the best vending machine of 2013.

The Charleston Museum three months ago installed the machine, which was the brainchild of a business student who’s since moved away. After 126 years, you might think the thrill of putting money in a slot and getting food in exchange would have faded, but you’d think wrong – and the concept is especially irresistible when the foods include peanuts, rice and benne wafers.

“People love it,” administrative manager Susan McKellar says. “I always hear people outside my office saying how cool it is.” Continue reading

Hominy Grill Retires its Original Set of Windsor Dining Chairs


My new desk chair.

When I was in graduate school, a professor tried to make the point that objects don’t speak by setting before us a plain wooden chair. As she anticipated, none of us guessed the chair had been rescued from the Harlem ballroom where Malcom X was killed.

But I’m still inclined to believe chairs are pretty good connectors to the past, perhaps because it’s so easy to imagine how they were used: They’re the material opposite of the coffee grinders and cherry pitters that museum docents use to stump visitors. So I jumped at the chance this afternoon to buy one of Hominy Grill’s original chairs, which the restaurant’s now selling off for 30 bucks apiece.

The Windsor chairs, with their gracefully curved backs and thinly-padded seats,  predate Hominy’s tenure at the corner of Cannon and Rutledge: When chef Robert Stehling in 1996 purchased the restaurant, the previous owner offered him the chairs at an absurdly low price. In a dining room where so many patrons often hail from elsewhere, staffers came to appreciate the steady permanence of the chairs. Continue reading