Hidden Kitchen: The Kitchen Sisters
You've heard of the San Francisco Gold Rush. But that rush spurred another, lesser-known event: the Egg Rush. The legions of miners who swept into the region in the 1850s hoping to strike gold all had to be fed. And they needed protein to stay strong. But when food shortages hit, wily entrepreneurs looked for eggs in an unlikely source: The Farallon Islands.
Completely isolated and surrounded by great white sharks and sea lions, "the Farallon Islands are the most forbidding piece of real estate to be found within the city limits of San Francisco," says Gary Kamiya, a journalist and author of Cool Gray City Of Love: 49 Views Of San Francisco. "The islands are 28 miles outside the Golden Gate in extremely turbulent, dangerous seas."
But these rocky, skeletal islands did have one attractive quality for gold miners: They harbored the largest seabird rockery in the contiguous United States, and therefore were rife with plenty of protein-rich eggs.
Getting these eggs wasn't easy. The islands "look like a piece of the moon that fell into the sea," says Mary Jane Schram of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. "There are really no shores where you can land a small boat except with great perils."
Between 1849 and 1854, thousands of fortune-hunters flooded into San Francisco from all over the world. Kamiya describes the city as a combination of casinos, campgrounds and brothels.
"Early on, some shrewd forty-niners began to realize that there was more money to be made mining the miners than there was in mining the gold fields," Kamiya says. Dozens of crude eating joints sprang up around the city, and hundreds of voracious miners would crowd into tents, eating in shifts. "The egg was one of the foodstuffs that was in such short supply."