2019: 150th Anniversary of Chinese Workers Building the Transcontinental Railway

by Molly Matthews

Building the transcontinental railroad.

Building the transcontinental railroad.

Irish Luck, Chinese Medicine has several love stories, one involves an Irish woman and Chinese man. As Immigrants they would have many things in common: fleeing oppression, escaping starvation and facing prejudice and violence. I didn’t know how they would find one another until I remembered that Irish and Chinese laborers built the transcontinental railroad.

Between the years of 1864 and 1869, Chinese laborers joined Irish immigrants ina race to complete the project. The Chinese proved to be of great value as they laid track at a much faster rate than their Irish counterparts due to their strong  work ethic and sense of community. They didn’t get inebriated with regularity, were strict about cleanliness, and boiled their food (preventing communicable and intestinal illness.)

Read here https://web.stanford.edu/group/chineserailroad/cgi-bin/website/for more about Stanford University’s The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project that “seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social landscape of the American West.”

Favorite Chinese Dish: Peking duck

by Molly Matthews

Food is a big part of Irish Luck, Chinese Medicine. sharing Characters in the book came to America to escape starvation and meals brought back the comfort of their homeland. In the book, aromatic Peking Duck is one display in the windows of Chinatown.

Picture from Agricole Hospitality

Picture from Agricole Hospitality


1 whole duck, head on

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup salt

1 teaspoon five-spice powder

1 cup molasses

2 cups oil, hot


Fill large pot 3/4 full with boiling water. Preheat rotisserie or oven to 375 degrees. Soak the whole duck in the large pot of boiling water. Remove it as soon as the skin changes color.

Sprinkle the inside of the duck with sugar, salt, and five-spice powder. Rub the skin of the duck with molasses. Truss the duck with string and hang in an airing place for 2 hours, or put the duck in the refrigerator overnight without any cover. This will dry the skin of the duck so that it will be crispy.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the skin is reddish brown.

Before serving, pour hot oil over the skin to increase the crispiness. Carve the skin and meat from the duck, and serve.

Molly Maguires: White or Black Hats?

by Molly Matthews


Child laborers known as “breaker boys” — one of many injustices of 19th Century coal mining.

Child laborers known as “breaker boys” — one of many injustices of 19th Century coal mining.

I struggled when writing Irish Luck, Chinese Medicine, about how to depict the vigilante group, the Molly Maguires.  Were they downtrodden miners who had no option but to fight back against despotic mine owners and corrupt politicians? Yes. Were they men who perpetrated violence, murder, and committed terrorist acts? Yes.

What was it like to descend into a dark mine six out of seven days, frantic to fill seven coal wagons (or you owe money to the company store.) The “breaker boys” depicted the book watch the miners eat sandwiches covered in coal dust, too tired and hungry to wash. The coal dust coated their stomachs and their lungs. What is it like to get sick from ingesting coal dust…or slowly suffocate with black lung? 

But what about the mine boss who loses his life when the bridge he crosses each day blows up one morning?  What if you are the wife or child of that man who is brutally killed?

It was a divided time, like our country is now. This is not a political blog but when author, Brenne Brown, was asked about how to mend our divided society, her answer resonated. She said, “assume positive intention.” 

I wonder if we can bring positive intention in areas of conflict in our world, society, community, family, and relationships?

Next time I’m tempting to judge, what if I assume positive intention?


About Irish Luck, Chinese Medicine

by Molly Matthews

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Irish Luck, Chinese Medicine is a novel about improbable allies, an Irish single mother and a Chinese physician. Set against the backdrop of the Catholic Church in 19th Century America, the novel tells the story of how one woman’s persistence and entrepreneurship become the gateway for her family’s survival despite injustice, tragedy, child labor, and forbidden love.

This blog is about the book and also how writing led me to a career pivot — a gift the Universe put on my path when I was ready for something new and challenging.

Maybe you are thinking about jumping into a new passion or crafting a different approach what you already do? I wish you God’s speed towards your arts adventure!

You can get Irish Luck, Chinese Medicine on Kindle here.

Favorite Irish Dish: Colcannon

by Molly Matthews


Picture from Simple Recipes, recipe from Kerigold

Picture from Simple Recipes, recipe from Kerigold

2 pounds red potatoes, cut into large chunks 

3/4 cup milk 

3/4 teaspoon salt 

6 tablespoons Kerrygold salted butter, plus additional melted butter if desired 

1 cup chopped onion 

6 cups finely shredded green cabbage (or one 10-ounce package) 

1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded Kerrygold Dubliner® Cheese or Blarney Castle Cheese 

Freshly ground pepper to taste


Cook potatoes in boiling water about 20 minutes or until very tender; drain well and mash with skins on, adding milk and salt.While potatoes are cooking, melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very soft. Add cabbage; cook and stir for 5 minutes more or until very soft. Stir cabbage mixture and Kerrygold cheese into hot potatoes and season with pepper.

Mound onto serving plates and make a well in the center of each. Pour a little melted butter into each well, if desired.