By: Piera Tocci
Throw the phrase “food trends” around in a crowded restaurant, and you’ll likely get responses like “molecular gastronomy” or “small plates.” Slow Food Chicago leader Amy Cox thinks the most important trend goes far beyond the obvious. “Gratitude,” Cox says. “More and more people slowing down to appreciate what is on their plates, who grew it, and who prepared it.”
Cox adopted this mantra after a 15-year long career in the cardiology medical device field. She consequently founded subURBAN homestead, an organization that spreads the word about sustainability through classes, events and access to locally grown food. subURBAN’s sister company, Cutting Edge Culinary & Garden Consulting creates sustainable programs and concepts for culinary professionals and food-related nonprofits. The unifying message? People of all ages, backgrounds and cultures should savor the simple pleasures in life.
Slow Food USA snuck a few minutes with Cox to talk about her favorite food, her favorite books, and what she plans to bring back from Terra Madre.
SF: What is the hardest question you were ever asked about the food system and how did you answer it?
AC: People will often ask me what they can do to make a difference. The answer can seem difficult at first, but then I remember it’s really quite simple – – DO something! Plant an herb garden, join a CSA, patronize businesses that treat their customers, producers and planet with respect. Every step in the right direction IS a step in the right direction.
SF: What is the best thing you have ever eaten?
AC: I have been very fortunate to sit around many different tables in many different countries enjoying amazing food and wonderful company. Any and all occasions where I get that opportunity stay engraved in my mind. But, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I truly believe there is no place like home. I cherish family dinners!
SF: What region/place would you like to visit to see their food culture?
AC: In the short term, I am very excited to visit Turin because I have been told that most families there keep a small food garden of their own, and I find that beautiful on many levels. And to visit a retail outlet like Eataly will be inspiring, since most Americans rely on retail establishments to provide them with food. Figuring out how to balance old world traditions with new age consumerism is a critical part of creating a sustainable food culture.
SF: Are you aware of any cool projects happening in other countries that are similar to your work?
AC: Yes, WAY too many to elaborate about here! The number of small scale farmers and producers on an international level that are doing their work out of a place of love and respect for themselves, their community and their planet is inspiring.
SF: What is the most inspiring thing anyone has ever told you?
AC: Smile at the world and the world will smile back.
SF: How and when did you first get into sustainability?
AC: I have always been passionate about gardening, farmers markets, and fresh eating. My 15-year career in the cardiology medical device field made me realize that I am more about wellness than sickness. This literally made me want to get back to my roots!
SF: What do you hope to bring back with you from Terra Madre?
AC: I plan to head off to Terra Madre with listening ears, an open mind and a pure heart. The things that are most relevant for me to bring back will become crystal clear.
SF: What is the most inspiration book or author you have read about what you do?
AC: So many inspiring authors and books out there! I just finished reading the Wisdom Of Tuscany: Simplicity, Security & the Good Life by Ferenc Máté.