If you’re ever in South Austin and forget the street address of your musician friend, pick the house with the beat-up van in the driveway. There’s a fairly solid chance that the person who answers the door will be a musician, although maybe not of the caliber of Guy Forsyth. As a respected singer-songwriter, bluesman and co-founder of the legendary, raucous and often-bawdy blues crew Asylum Street Spankers, Forsyth forged an impressive national and international career (as well as an equally impressive base of doe-eyed fans) since his arrival in Austin in the early ’90s.
Despite the size of the van in his driveway, though, Forsyth travels light these days—usually as part of a road-tested trio that includes bandmates Jeff Botta and Nina Singh. One of the tires on the band van is in desperate need of air, but Forsyth doesn’t seem concerned. After 300,000-plus miles, the van is no longer operational and he plans to donate it to radio station KUT. Mostly, he just hauls his heartthrob self, his guitar and a bandolier of harmonicas to gigs. After many years on the road, he’s learned it’s best to avoid unnecessary complications.
He’s also learned that eating on the road can take its toll on your health and psyche. Road food can literally break your heart, so when he’s home, Forsyth tries to eat healthy. He credits his mother for breaking him into eating well at an early age. “It’s really tough to get kids to eat vegetables, so my mom would try different ways to get us to eat them,” he says. “Cauliflower salad is the first way my mother actually succeeded in getting me to eat vegetables, so I have a soft spot for it.”
In his years as a touring musician, Forsyth’s had plenty of opportunities to expand his palate beyond the relatively bland Midwestern cuisine of his boyhood days in suburban Kansas City. Eating asparagus in Belgium, for example, turned out to be a “eureka” moment. “I’d tried asparagus several times in the States,” he says, “but after having it in Belgium, I was angry that I’d been lied to. That was what asparagus was supposed to taste like!”
And not only have his years on the road expanded his tastes, they’ve also increased his enjoyment of food overall. “I like a lot of different options,” he says. “I wouldn’t call myself a great cook. I tend to improvise a lot in the kitchen…which sometimes gets me in trouble. But I generally like to combine good, fresh, quality elements.” His favorite entrée at the moment is salmon prepared any number of ways, but currently he’s enamored with a ginger-brown sugar-soy glaze he created, which involves a coating of minced garlic. He also loves to make steak—ideally grassfed rib-eye on the grill—and lately he’s been experimenting with roasting vegetables.
Today in his kitchen, however, the vegetables are fresh, unfussy and from his childhood. He dices up some red onion. “You might want to make sure that you share this salad with your date because the flavors are intense and tend to linger,” he says with a laugh, as though any date of his would have turned away from a little onion breath. He notes that this is a salad whose job it is to bring out the “sassy” in cauliflower—not an easy task, but the red onions, olives and blue cheese present a muscle-y tag team.
“Now for the secret ingredient!” Forsyth exclaims as he opens the refrigerator. “Love?” I ask. “No!” he responds. “Italian dressing!” Bottled. Italian. Dressing. Wish-Bone brand, to be exact. Nobody saw that coming. He begins to pour a generous amount over the salad, drenching it, really. “You can eat it now, but it’s best to let it sit overnight so the flavors have a chance to mix,” he says. I reflexively glance down at an invisible wristwatch. “Fortunately,” he says, “I made some in advance so you can get the full mix of flavors.” He spoons some in a bowl. “Bon appétit!”
Surprisingly, the Italian dressing mixes well with the blue cheese and red onion, and that, combined with the saltiness of the olives, makes me almost forget I’m eating raw cauliflower, which, even for the most worldly gastronome, would be a bit of a slog. I guess that’s some Midwestern-mom magic. I am eating my vegetables.
By Dan Hardick • Photography Melanie Grizzel