Corey Mintz serves up pizza risotto to his guests, both passionate advocates for disability rights (and one a serious Star Trek fan). Food writer Corey Mintz makes his take on Italian fusion, pizza risotto. By: Corey Mintz Food, Published on Fri Feb 20 2015
When I open the door for lawyer David Lepofsky, he extends his hand for a shake, then his cane, to probe the entrance. With one smooth stride, he moves through the door, stepping immediately to his right to land on the rubber floor mat I bought for wet boots. He is the first guest to notice or use the mat.
This is like a blind date, says Lepofsky as I take his coat. He admits that he reuses this joke too often. He had already warned me, via email, that his only allergy was to small portions and that no cruise ship had ever made money on him.
Lepofsky joins CBC Radio producer Ing Wong-Ward, with her husband Tim and daughter Zhenmei, a big little food enthusiast who will eat anything but kids food, as I put the finishing touches to a salad.
Back when I reviewed restaurants, I measured the bathroom doors and the turning radius at the entrance, to determine if they were wheelchair accessible, according to guidelines I got from city hall.
Wong-Ward rolls her eyes at the idea of someone in government determining how much space her wheelchair needs. Sooner or later, she says, we all get some form of disability. Its called aging. She just has more experience with the discrimination.
Id wanted to have her over before, to do a column about accessibility. But my old third-floor walk up made that impossible.
Lepofsky, who spent years fighting the TTC just to get them to announce the transit stops out loud (which cost nothing, though they spent $450,000 in legal fees to fight it), says that the governments default position is to obstruct progress.
Theres no Ministry of Good Ideas, he says. Rather than looking at the idea and thinking it through, they come up with a million reasons why they shouldnt or they send you a letter telling you all the great things theyre doing anyway.
Having won some hard-fought legal battles, Lepofskys activism now seems less about fighting the governments laws in court than shaming them into compliance.
Though creating a more accessible world is his passion, hes just as eager, maybe more so, to talk about Star Trek. Hes seen every episode so many times that his lips move with the dialogue.
We power through the salad and then a lentil and beef dish, Wong-Ward always finding a moment to narrate each course to Lepofsky.
I have to interrupt you to describe the risotto, says Wong-Ward, at the table with Lepofsky while her husband and daughter are helping me over at the stove.
Challenged by Lepofskys appetite, Ive doubled the recipe, needing my largest vessel to simmer and stir the pizza risotto with chicken stock and tomato sauce.
Its been cooking in a wok. Theres a lot of gooey cheese going into it, Wong-Ward describes as I finish the rice with mozzarella and oregano, stuffing each portion into a crock dish.
She continues describing for Lepofsky as her daughter wipes the cascade of cheese off the dish sides and her husband garnishes with pepperoni.
Back at the table, Wong-Ward says that attitudes, social and professional, have changed about people with disabilities during the 20 years shes been working as a journalist. But were still failing to meet the accessibility goals already set.
Theres a billion people with disabilities around the world. Thats a heck of a tourist market if we can attract them, says Lepofsky, speaking of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games this summer. But youve got to have tourism and hospitalities to meet their needs. Youve got to have restaurants they can get into, hotel rooms, taxis, all that stuff.
His attempts have so far only yielded a government promise to prepare a list of what is accessible, at which he laughs.
A list of how little there is doesnt improve anything. Theyre either going to have a wonderful opportunity this summer to showcase Toronto as a destination for the billion people with disabilities, tourist and conference destination and so on. Or its going to be a global embarrassment, which is what we think theyre barreling towards.
For the two weeks the games are going to run in Toronto, Wong Ward sets her sights lower, could the TTC ensure that all its elevators work?
Shes baked a chocolate Guinness cake and warns me to cut a small slice for her daughter. Still, after devouring the sugar, Zhenmei runs laps around the kitchen before collapsing onto the sofa, marking her bedtime. But I have one last question.
Launched in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is supposed to make the province accessible by 2025.
Are we on schedule? Lepofsky asks rhetorically. Nobody from the government can credibly say we are.
Did we give the province too much rope? Is 2025 too long a timeline?
At the time, there were people in the disability community who said, Its too long. I may not live that long. But it was long enough that it got the business people to buy into the legislation and all three political parties to vote for it. We didnt want to win it from one government and just have the next government repeal it, Lepofsky says. The other function it served is, it started the clock running.
How on track are we for a more generous timeline, say the utopian Star Trek future of the 2260s, a world of smooth ramps and automatic doors, where discrimination only exists as allegory?
Sadly, at the present rate of progress, I doubt wed reach full accessibility in our lifetimes, or even by the time the Starship Enterprise is boldly exploring the galaxy in the 23rd century.
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1¼ cups (310 mL) Arborio rice
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) white wine
- 3 cups (750 mL) stock (chicken or vegetable), warm
- 1½ cups (375 mL) tomato sauce, warm
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) grated parmesan
- 1 cup (250 mL) grated mozzarella
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh herbs (oregano, basil)
- 12 slices pepperoni
In a large pan on medium heat, use butter to sauté shallots until soft, about 2 minutes. Add rice and stir, letting it colour a little, about 2 minutes. Add wine and allow rice to absorb liquid, while stirring, about 3 minutes. Add stock and tomato sauce, just a small ladle at a time, stirring constantly and only adding more liquid as the rice absorbs it. Continue until rice is al dente, about 18-20 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in parmesan, mozzarella, herbs and pepperoni and serve immediately.
Makes four servings.