We all photograph our food these days. Just look at Instagram -- half the images in your newsfeed are bound to depict someone's dinner. Our food choices are inconsequential -- yesterday's lunch means nothing today, lest you be struck down with food poisoning. But what do our food choices say about St. Louis as a whole?
The Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard; 314-577-9400) is looking to answer to this question via its "What Does St. Louis Eat?" project.
The methodology is a first for Gut Check's favorite local botanical garden: a "public-sourced storytelling project."
Individuals can share their food stories through photos, videos and essays:
Photos Capture a single image that best reflects the story of food and you. It could be a favorite dish, the kitchen where you learned to cook, the market where you find the best ingredients, your vegetable garden etc. Include a brief description (150 words or less) describing what makes your image significant.
Short Videos Give us a tour of your vegetable garden, interview your favorite dining companions, walk us through a cherished family recipe, etc.
Essays Describe in 300 words or less your favorite food-related memory or another significant food experience that is meaningful to you.
Submissions will be accepted through May 4, after which MoBot will chose images, videos and text to feature in an exhibition on-site and online.
Sounds intriguing to Gut Check, but we were a little skeptical about whom MoBot expects to put the "public" in "public-sourced." (Gardens? Favorite dining companions? How about "cherished broasted chicken dinners at Frank & Helen's?"
So we rang up Sheila Voss, MoBot's vice president of education.
So, Sheila, is MoBot looking for shots of our medium-rare filet Béarnaise from Sidney Street Cafe?
Not necessarily, says Voss.
"It could be a college kid that says, 'Yeah, I eat ramen noodles and Oreos every day,'" she assures us.
The first submissions are only now trickling in, she reports. She says she has received at least one beer photo, and a particularly heartfelt submission from a girl in memory of her late grandmother, with whom she baked pies every Thanksgiving.
Voss says she hopes to see St. Louis' diversity reflected in participants' entries.
"The thing that's really neat about St. Louis is its ethnic diversity, with all these different food cultures," she explains. "And we hope some of that gets submitted. It's such a great foodie town."
The garden is accepting submissions via its What St. Louis Eats Flickr group, tagged with #stleats and tweeted to @mobotnews or posted to Instagram (attn:@mobotgarden). Good old-fashioned e-mail works as well: firstname.lastname@example.org.