This week’s episode of The Sporkful focuses more on eaters than food, and with great success. Dan Pashman welcomes John Hockenberry, host of WNYC’s The Takeway, and special Education teacher/food blogger David Freidman (who writes under the moniker “The Disabled Foodie”) to the table.
John has spent almost his entire life in a wheelchair. David has been in one for just over a year. Together, they share a meal with host Dan Pashman at The Good Fork in Brooklyn and help break in the restaurant’s freshly installed wheelchair ramp.
Before their food arrives, David and John outline some of the most common concerns about a restaurant’s accessibility:
Is there an accessible bathroom? (And is it up or down some stairs; is it of sufficient size?) Table heights are often a worry, as is interacting with a group of people standing at a bar. We learn that life in a wheelchair can be an isolating experience.
It’s tough to hear about the many obstacles people with disabilities must consider just to enjoy food with others. Food naturally brings people together, and, as people, we should be all about promoting that. I’ll be honest, as someone that doesn’t deal with a physical disability, I’m ashamed that it’s something I haven’t given much thought.
Friedman—the special Ed teacher—is quite familiar with disabilities and the accommodations they may require. He feels there is no disability that would be too restricting for a restaurant. The patron they are serving is a person and should be treated as such.
Hockenberry gives a milder opinion about restaurant accessibility and instead highlights a different aspect of his dining experience. His main point is that, regardless of restaurant accessibility, he just wants to be treated like a person, not an alien from Mars. Oftentimes, people with disabilities are treated like objects rather than human beings. If only the humans of the world would operate with the same respect and foresight as buildings designed to be ADA compliant.
I’ll leave it to Friedman, who offers up a profound sound bite: “Everybody will be disabled, be it permanently or temporarily, at some point in their lifetime. It’s as simple as asking how can we help.”
The tone shifts in part 2 of the episode, as comic and YouTube personality Zach Anner takes the mic in a live conversation with Dan. Anner has cerebral palsy and talks about dealing with people that want to help a little too much. He tries to emphasize his reactions to these situations. He actively thinks about what action he can take to change the ways people think, and says that he’d rather have people ask questions than fail to engage with a person with a disability.
With no real segue—he is a comedian after all— Anner proclaims that Brachs is the only reputable brand of candy corn. I fully agree. Few things disappoint more than off-brand candy corn. It’s like getting MegaBlox instead of Legos for Christmas. No mom, they’re not “basically the same thing.” Don’t ask me to describe how MegaBlox differ from Legos or why Brachs reigns supreme. It’s just true.
Pashman picks Anner’s brain for some further surprisingly insightful culinary analysis regarding wine and milkshakes. I won’t spoil Anner’s feelings about milkshakes, but I can’t help repeating his thoughts on wine. There are no complex or real flavors in there: “I’m just tasting grapes that have gone bad.”
I found both parts of this episode extremely quotable, and for different reasons. I’d have shared more, but realize many of Anner’s casual jokes about cerebral palsy don’t quite translate well to text. 1 Pashman is spot on in saying that, “while his muscles don’t always cooperate, his comedic timing is flawless.” His delivery alone is worth a listen this week.
- Okay, just one: “Cerebral palsy is the sexiest of the palsies.”) ^
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