Chopped Olive Sandwiches

Robert Hunter wrote the lyrics for the obscure Phil Lesh song ‘Clementine’ and the Grateful Dead played it five times from 1968 till 1969.  This song was so rare that its existence wasn’t remembered until the ‘90s, and then it made it on to the 1999 So Many Roads box set CD.  The Grateful Dead started to record the song during the sessions for their 1969 third album Aoxomoxoa, but apparently, they weren’t too happy with it, so it never made it to the album, however it was included on the 50th Anniversary Edition of Aoxomoxoa, which was released in 2019.

Unlike peanut and jelly, olive and nut never caught on as a popular pairing.  This recipe calls for sandwich builders to finely chop olives with English walnuts and combine the ingredients together with mayonnaise.  It is then served on buttered bread, and the mixture makes for a light sandwich that’s big on texture.  Olives grow on olive trees and they belong to a group of fruit called drupes, or stone fruits, and they are related to mangoes, cherries, peaches, almonds, and pistachios.  Olive trees were brought to California in the 18th Century by Spanish missionaries and in 1912, when the demand for table olives grew, two brothers, Arthur and Henry Bell, purchased an olive orchard in Reedly which is in Fresno County Calif.  In the early 1930’s, Bell’s chopped olives were widely used in chopped olive sandwiches and considered to be a delicacy at the time.

This song talks about tasty food, roses and wine and then it goes on to convey hopeless feelings of romantic desolation where time seems like it is bottomless.  ‘Clementine’ is eloquently romantic and hauntingly beautiful as this guy tries to go on, but he is totally annoyed because his cup is leaking.  He feels lost and he tries to find his bearings by chopping his way through the branches.  ‘Clementine’ has a jazzy feel to it and it is said to be based on John Coltrane’s ‘My Favorite Things’ and Garcia’s guitar is said to resemble Santana.  Some people have compared it to the Quicksilver Messenger Service instrumental ‘Gold & Silver’.  ‘Clementine’ never made it into Robert Hunter’s 1990 Box of Rain book of lyrics and some people feel that this is because Hunter considered this song to be unfinished.

Chopped olive sandwiches, roses and wine
Cold ripe persimmons, my sweet Clementine

There’s a chill in the meadow, of bottomless time
I go on, I go on, I cannot fill my cup
There’s a hole in the bottom, the spring has dried up

I run through the forests of linear time
Chop through the branches and cut through the vines

I’ll be back in a moment, though it may take me years
In the lava rock canyons corroded with fears
Of corruptible bodies and grief beyond tears

I’ll go on till I hear the sweet voices behind
That I’ve left for the comfort of cold Clementine

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is Apple/Banana/Cherry/Olive/Orange/Strawberry.

19 thoughts on “Chopped Olive Sandwiches

  1. When I moved to Maine, people ate chopped olives mixed with cream cheese on sandwiches. This year we discovered we have a persimmon tree on our property – an interesting fruit. Bitter until the first frost then very sweet. I did get a Santana feel listening to this song. Thanks for the background.

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    1. I don’t listen to all that much jazz, but I think this song is nice and ” like the lyrics even of they are unfinished. It is totally so Robert Hunter, “run through the forests of linear time”.

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  2. I don’t think I’d like olive sandwiches. I do like olives, though — used to make a couple olive salads or relishes or salsas to go with potato pancakes for Hanukah when my kids were (very) young. One involved black olives, and one contained green olives. I think parsley was involved; I don’t remember the rest. Of course, sour cream was served too. Said kids also learned to like applesauce… both because of Hanukah and because, in the summer, my dad made fresh applesauce with apples from his tree. (I didn’t make applesauce with apples from my tree; I made apple pies and apple crisp.)

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      1. I thought someone would use Orange Crush to tell you the truth. I got a lot of feedback on it…but nothing …. nothing beats the feedback I got off of “Saturday’s Child” by the Monkees. Who would have thought…an album track by the Monkees would get so many views?

        I like this song though…I’ll have to remember this one.

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