LP Forté, former owner of The Rib Cage, was born in New Boston, Texas on January 9, 1936. He was a country boy, according to his daughter Ayesha, who still called Burger King Burger Chef and a grocery store Burger Diary.
He would make these “crazy dishes,” Ayesha remembered. One in particular was a version of the polk salad: greens, scrambled eggs, onions, and shrimp, but “dad would put so much pepper, salt, and crazy things in it, and expected us to eat it,” Ayesha said.
But for real, all crazy-combinations aside, LP in the kitchen was no joke. The Rib Cage, a big hangout for young kids, located at 1714 East Pontiac Street, was known for its ribs, barbecue sauce, nachos, and polish sausages.
“I wish I paid more attention to his cooking because he was always in the kitchen,” Ayesha said. Forté is the co-owner of catering company Black Seed Vegans, with wife Cicely.
When The Rib Cage closed in 1988, another soul food joint, Mama’s Place, took over the building. Then another eating place and another. Ayesha drives past the now empty lot every week.
LP’s a Capricorn like Ayesha. She doesn’t write recipes down; LP didn’t either.
“His cooking was based off feelings,” Ayesha said. To LP, “if it smelled right, if it felt right, it was right.” Intuition.
When Ayesha was on summer break from Ball State, her father came into her room. He wasn’t feeling well and would be driving himself to the hospital. “By the time I got there, he didn’t know who I was,” Ayesha said.
He passed from congestive heart failure, on July 5, 2005. “I was a daddy’s girl,” Ayesha said.
Ayesha couldn’t focus back at Ball State, where she commuted that Fall. Her focus from school shifted.
“It was rough. I can recall my dad when he had pneumonia and getting pulled out of school when he had a heart attack,” Ayesha said, who attributes becoming a vegan to how he died.
She also recalled how her father would bring breakfast: Arby’s beef-and-cheddar sandwiches with the “hated” onion-roll buns that her and her brother Christopher Zane never confessed to hating.
He worked third shift for the city and got home when his kids got up.