Blogger Jessica Gottlieb sat in JFK Airport waiting to see the plane her kids were on take off, but it just sat there. Not one to keep her grievances to herself, she tweeted her situation and implored her nearly 10,000 followers to retweet. Within minutes, she received a call from the airline explaining the weather situation and assuring her everything is being done to depart. This would have been unheard of even five years ago, but today it is surprising yet believable. Gottlieb is one of the many people taking advantage of the third wave of customer service development. The evolution from forums to blogs to microblogs has amplified the need for on the spot customer service. In the competitive airline industry, companies have had to listen to their customers to avoid any bad PR.
In Oakland, where backyard menageries and D.I.Y. charcuterie are the new garage band, the term “urban homesteading” doesn’t need an explanation. “It fits into the Oakland sort of self-defined vibe or aesthetic of doing things from scratch and being kind of hard-core,” she said, tugging at the false eyelashes she hadn’t had a chance to remove since judging “Iron Chef” in Los Angeles the night before. But to a visiting New Yorker, a definition was in order. “It’s figuring out how to feed yourself with what’s available,” she explained. “I feel like it’s about people transforming food in their home, conserving it, knowing the smart thing to do,” using simple, old-fashioned techniques like curing meats and canning and drying fruits and vegetables.
“There’s a hunger,” she continued, stirring a pot of Sicilian fava-bean soup that started with a few cubes of soffrito that Sardo makes in bulk and freezes in ice-cube trays for quick soups and sauces. “I don’t want to make generalizations about it, but people want to learn these skills so much. It’s from a lot of different ages and communities right now.”
Fernald said she believed that her generation and the one following were interested in food activism and urban homesteading because they felt that it, unlike politics, was one area in which they can effect change. “We’ve become so disconnected from everything,” said Sardo, who is 40 and who has been busy finding tenants for the 70,000 square feet of food retail space in the nearby Jack London Market. “We need to reconnect with something, some material. And food is the thing you do most.”