This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The fruit of the olive tree, formerly a special product of southern Europe, now the largest and best come from California. For hotel use olives should be bought by the keg, as glass packing, labels, etc., cost as much as the fruit. The majority of Americans are fond of olives and the demand is increasing.
As bought in kegs and jars the olives are in salt water; they have been gathered green and steeped for a short time in lime water and lye, which counteracts the oil in them, and after that they will take up salt as well as cucumbers and are thus preserved.
Olives must be kept under the brine, in the dark, covered up from the air, and never taken from the keg with the hands; nearly full kegs will sometimes turn soft and have to be thrown away through neglect of these precautions; the best package is the firkin-shaped bucket with a large bung in the lid; a wooden spoon can be used to dip them from the bung hole, which can then be tightly closed.
Besides the favorite method of eating olives raw, and salted as they are, they are valued as an addition and ornament to every sort of salad, and only a little less welcome when stoned and served in meat sauces.
There is etiquette in eating olives.
Cardinal Richelieu is said to have detected an adventurer, who was passing himself off as a nobleman, by his helping himself to olives with a fork; it being cotnme il faut to use the fingers for that purpose.
Some people do not like olives as generally packed in brine. To such we recommend the soaking of the olives over night in fresh water, for which vinegar may afterwards be substituted. By this means the olives are converted into a nice pickle, and are very appetizing.
Olives in France, are introduced in sauces for calves' head and fowls; and a duck is served with olive sauce. For these purposes the olives are turned with a knife, so as to take out the stone and leave the fruit whole.
Place the olive inside an anchovy the anchovy inside a lark, the lark inside a quail, the quail inside a partridge, the partridge inside a pheasant, and the pheasant inside a turkey; roast the turkey until well done. Take the pheasant out of the turkey, the partridge out of the pheasant, the quail out of the partridge, the lark out of the quail, the anchovy out of the lark, and the olive out of the anchovy. The olive, imbued with the essential juices of all these toothsome viands, will, Dumas asserts, then be a hors d'ceuvre, fit to set before a king.