Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Scene on Colfax: Owsley "Bear" Stanley

Owsley, LSD King and Grateful Dead Soundman, Was a Foodie

Owsley "Bear" Stanley was the self-taught master chemist who produced much of the acid used to popularize the psychedelic chemical in California in the mid-60s, which was partly chronicled in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968). His LSD made the scene in other acid-fueled events of the era, including the Monterey Pop Festival. He was also the legendary Grateful Dead soundman, who revolutionized the technique of live concert recording, and his techniques are still being used to record acts like Phish today.

On top of all that, he was also a rabid proto-foodie.

Owsley and Jerry Garcia
Or so reports the new book Owsley and Me by sometime girlfriend, native Brooklynite, and now holistic orthodontist living up in Woodstock, Rhoney Gissen Stanely. The book is to be published in April, 2013, but FiTR filched an advanced copy.

The scene takes place in Denver, where Bear, his two girlfriends, and a local amateur chemist had set up a lab to produce LSD in 1967, after it had been made illegal in California. In it she recounts Stanley's passion for meat and low-carb (he ate few vegetables and claimed starchy substances led to obesity); he seems to have anticipated the Paleo Diet by nearly 50 years:

My first morning in Denver, sunlight woke me. Melissa was in the kitchen making tea, and Owsley was sitting nude at the table thumbing through a phone directory. "Now," Owsley said, "we need to find a butcher. Colorado is known for its beef, and we will eat like kings." He looked through the yellow pages and found a butcher on Colfax Avenue. He picked up the phone and ordered chuck steaks.
"Chuck, isn't that the cheapest cut? Why didn't you order filet mignon, the connoisseur's choice?" I asked.
"I would never buy filet mignon," Owsley disdainfully answered me. He put a French accent on the words. "Filet mignon has little fat, and although it may be soft to chew, it is tasteless. I can feed a whole family of six with what two filets would cost me. This is another example of mindless spin dictating taste. To say filet mignon is the best cut of meat is pure drivel."
"Well, that's what I was taught growing up. At home [in Brooklyn], the meat had to be kosher, and if we went to a restaurant, we ordered filet mignon."
"Rhoney, ride the bicycle to the butcher's and pick up the meat. I'll prove to you what's right."
The author peddles to the butcher shop and returns with the steaks, and this further scene ensues:
Owsley seared the meat over high flame and cooked it quickly. "The only way to eat meat is blood rare. What's the sense of eating anything after you've cooked out all the nutrients?"
Bear called his diet the "primitive man's diet," and he attacked his blood-red steak like a primitive man, stabbing the meat with a knife and bringing the knife to his mouth, au jus too much. I used a knife and fork.
"Unnecessary," Bear decried, watching me.
I put a slice of his chuck in my mouth. The texture was satisfying and the flavor delicious. Owsley picked up a bottle of [Jamaican] Pickapeppa sauce and poured some on the meat, cut a piece, and held it to my mouth. "This is good for variety. You may have a preference in sauces, but unless I make my own, I like this brand."

From the forthcoming, Owsley and Me: My LSD Family, by Rhoney Gissen Stanley with Tom Davis (Rhinebeck, NY: Monkfish, 2013). Pub date: April, 2013
Excerpt from pages 53-54.

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