This is based on inspiring comments from this thread.
And the bravery to ask the question: "Do I really need multisite?
I'd like to discuss the options for a complex non-multisite installation. I put this in the multisite forum because when I first started this project, I thought "obviously I need subdomains for each of my major content areas". But more and more it seems like I was trying to smash a square peg into a round hole. Each of the would-be subsites is a gallery of contributed small images (posts) linking back to the original author's blog. The current sites are chowstalker and dessertstalker, but we are wanting to semi-merge them into a super site similar to (but better than) tasteologie, which is not wordpress and seems to be using subdomains. They probably are jumping through hoops to break down the walls between their apartments. Thanks to John Gieser, Andrea Rennick and Mika Epstein for this enlightenment. I think I'm on the right track now.
So what I'm looking for is a super-category that takes the place of a subdomain, and be able to redirect my old sites to the matching super-categories of the new single site. Thus keeping the content somewhat separated (and familiar to visitors of the old sites).
I'll have to work with my theme to make the headers and sidebars relevant to the super-category so the "sites" keep their unique flavor.
Currently I'm investigating the use of custom post types (pages).