Coigil aithinne d’aislinge
Scaradh lei is eag duit.
Preserve the spark of your vision
To part with it is death.
I am part Irish. My great, great grandfather John, born in 1804, was a tenant farmer in County Roscommon. County Roscommon was to become the epicenter of the potato blight that began in 1845. Hit the hardest by the blight, Roscommon lost nearly 1/3 of its population by the end of the decade.
To escape the famine, John and the rest of the able-bodied men in our family left Ireland in 1848 for the United States. There they found work with the railway. A decade later, the women and children immigrated to rejoin our family, moving west as the railway expanded across the continent. My grandfather, John, was born in 1884 in Percy, Wyoming. By the time he was a young man, his family had followed the railroad to Pocatello, Idaho. And though it was in the heart of potato country, no member of the Kinney family ever farmed potatoes again – ever!
At the beginning of the 20th century, John and his brother Ed moved to the newly established town of Twin Falls. Twin Falls was the center of an irrigation district where the sagebrush desert landscape was being converted to homesteads. There, the brothers established the Kinney Wholesale Company where they wholesaled beans and other commodities.
Our family never celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day. We wore green to school, but that was about it. There was no corned beef and cabbage, and definitely no colcannon (the Irish mashed potato and cabbage staple). Many in our family had survived on cabbage for the decade it took to gain passage to the States, and the smell of it brought back memories they preferred to forget.
There was one recipe my father made for us sometimes. It was a recipe he called SOS (we will just say Sauce on a Shingle). It was his grandmother’s recipe. It is similar to the chipped beef on toast that was served at our school cafeteria. The closest I have come to the origins of Great Grandmother’s recipe is Convent Eggs, which were common in soup kitchens across Ireland during the great famine. The internet has many recipes for convent eggs – here is ours.
- 2 Tbs. Butter
- 2 Tbs. Flour
- 1 Onion – sliced
- 2 Cups Milk – whole
- 4 Eggs – hard boiled
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 4 Slices Bread – toasted
Cook the onions in the butter until soft but not browned. Add the flour and mix, cooking another two or three minutes on medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and then add the milk, stirring until thickened. Add the eggs and cook while stirring another minute until heated through. Spoon on top of toast and serve.