Tag Archives: books

A Texas Cowboy Cookbook – more than food!


Buffalo Bill, a real life Colonel who had fought in numerous battles, created a traveling show merging his own experiences with fiction. This show and others helped spread and popularise the image of the ‘Wild West’ and the cowboy. Buffalo Bill’s wild west and congress of rough riders of the world – Circus poster showing cowboys rounding up cattle and portrait of Col. W.F. Cody on horseback. c.1899

Robb Walsh’s Texas Cowboy Cookbook is one of his many great cookbooks that bring together history and food in a wonderful volume. The Texas Cowboy Cookbook has simple recipes with plenty of photographs and stories about the history and origins of the food.

Mention a Texan cowboy and most people will think of similar images: gathering around a fire with cactus silhouettes in the background, gunfights at high noon and playing poker in dusty saloons with swinging doors. While some of those things did happen, they are only a fraction of the story, and the image of the Texas cowboy that so many have comes from a 20-year period where driving cattle through dangerous territory was common.

erwin e smith - black cowboys

African-American cowboys on their mounts ready to participate in horse race during Negro State Fair, Bonham, Texas, ca. 1911-1915. Photo: Erwin E. Smith

After the Civil War ended, Texas was not a state only populated by white gun-toting cowboys and small frontier towns, as many books, TV shows and films would have you believe. There were thousands of newly-freed slaves (25% of all cowboys during this time) and a large minority population from Mexico (which Texas had been part of only 20 years before). In fact, the primary origin of Texan cowboy culture is rooted in the Mexican vaqueros, which originates on the Andalusian plain in Spain. The food traditions associated with these different groups as well as the mix of American and European immigrants moving into Texas shaped the foods eaten there, as well as the practicalities of eating on long trips rounding up wild cattle.


The Longhorn cattle were released by the Spanish in the 16th century and had become feral and plentiful in central and western Texas by the mid-19th century. Photo courtesy of Dickinson Cattle Co.

Post Civil War many people needed new jobs – and the wild longhorn cattle could fetch $30-$40 a head. From 1866-1886 millions of cattle were rounded up and driven to railhead towns to be shipped to Northern markets. This could be dangerous work with little pay – there were storms, rattlesnakes, stampedes and raid by Comanche and other Native American tribes. The lifestyle became popularised and romanticised, as well as the associated food. In reality beans, sourdough biscuits and black coffee would have been common on the trail; fortunately however this cookbook has recipes for more than just that! Venison tamales, stewed baby okra, coffee-rubbed beef tenderloin, butter pecan ice cream, jalapeño corn bread and chicken-fried steaks are just some of the recipes on offer.

walsh - tx cowboyThe Texas Cowboy Cookbook (Broadway 2007) Texas cowboys are  legend — immortalized in rugged images from Madison Avenue to Hollywood. Robb Walsh digs into the culinary culture of the Texas cowboys, starting with the chile-based cuisine of the Mexican vaqueros and then gives overdue credit to the largely unsung black cowboys and the role played by cowgirls and finishes with the modern Urban Cowboys.

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Presidents’ Day

prezIt was Presidents’ Day this week (the third Monday in February). The holiday was initially to celebrate George Washington’s February birthday, but later included Abraham Lincoln’s February birthday. It is an official holiday in most states and states officially recognise either Washington or Lincoln, or a combination of multiple presidents. The day has also become well known for many retailers, especially car dealerships, hosting Presidents’ Day sales. Despite the newer retail traditions, many locations still celebrate various presidents. Alexandria, Virginia – George Washington’s birthplace, celebrates all during the month of February. This year there was a parade, cherry-themed food and drink recipe competition, 18th century dance lessons and a banquet and ball (to put into practice those 18th century dance moves!).

In honour of this holiday, here are some interesting facts about a few US presidents:

  • The capital of Liberia was named after James Monroe (in office 1817-1825)
  • Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) taught his parrot to curse and the bird had to be removed from his funeral because it wouldn’t stop swearing!
  • Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) installed the first central-heating system and the first bathroom with hot and cold water in the White House.
  • Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) was given a speeding ticket for driving his horse and buggy too fast in Washington D.C.
  • Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897), the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, discovered a cancerous growth on the roof of his mouth in the middle of the economic crisis of 1893. So that his illness would not add to the panic, he and doctors snuck aboard a friend’s pleasure boat and removed the growth. Part of his jaw was replaced with an artificial jaw made of vulcanised rubber. The public thought he was on a fishing trip and never knew the truth until 1917.
  • William Howard Taft was both President (1909-1913) and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1921-1930), the only person to head both the Executive and Judicial Branches of government.
  • Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) and his family lived in China prior to his election and spoke Mandarin. He and his wife would speak Mandarin around the White House when they didn’t want others understanding them.

Want to learn more? Check out these biographies and histories of some US Presidents:

1920 bookairforceonebooklincolnbookobamabookkingcowboybookwilsonbook

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Join us if you dare, for a Halloween scare!



Halloween is one of the largest secular holidays celebrated in the U.S. Although officially celebrated on the 31st of October, most Americans are spellbound by the frightful festivities come October 1st–pumpkin patches begin to sprout in the parking lots of local grocery stores, spiderweb decorations begin to deck the hallways of homes and weekly television programs honor viewers with a Halloween special. This year the Memorial Library is also getting into the Halloween spirit so come trick or treating to the Memorial Library on Halloween and design your own pumpkin, listen to some spooky stories, and write your own ghostly poem.

For those looking for more frightful fun and folly in the city, here are some other ways to get involved in the bewitching season. Remember, it’s just a bunch of Hocus Pocus!

1. Enjoy Spooky City Halloween Fun at the Forum

In the run up to All Hallow’s Eve there’s plenty of half-term fun available for families at both The Forum and Millennium Library. Inside The Forum, children are invited to join free craft workshops and hear a traditional story teller tell spooky tales. Also watch our artist work wonders on some large pumpkins, grown here in Norwich by White House Farm. The Spooky City parade on All Hallow’s Eve is your chance to dress to impress – or to terrify! Enjoy the dancing, live music, street entertainers and the ghostly surprises lurking in the shop doorways! The parade starts at Norwich Castle at 6.30pm on Fri 31 Oct and makes its way to The Forum via Castle Green, Farmer’s Avenue, Timberhill, Red Lion Street, Gentleman’s Walk and Hey Hill. More information can be found on the website.

2. Take a Norwich Ghost Walk

The Norwich Ghost Walks take you to many famous places around the city noted for their strange events. Apart from experiencing first hand the amazing architectural elements and history of this fine city, you will be regaled with its more macabre side of tragic events & local stories. There is even a Halloween Special for those of the more brave-hearted nature. The Ghost Walks have been happening since 1998 and the Man in Black, the tour guide, is a true Norwich gem.  All tours start from the Adam and Eve Pub. See the website for more details. http://www.ghostwalksnorwich.co.uk/first.html

 3. Decorate a Pumpkin


Pumpkin carving or decorating is a staple part of the Halloween experience.The pumpkin, or Jack-O-Lantern—the name for a carved pumpkin—has become one of the more familiarized symbols of Halloween. The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded as early as 1837. You can collect a pumpkin at your local shop or the Norwich Market and browse some of our craft books for some inspiration. Here’s one to get you started. You can reserve a copy on the online catalog here.


4. Eat, Drink & Be Scary with a Haunted Pub Crawl

Norwich boasts being one of the most haunted cities in England. Conveniently for the pint enthusiast, many of these spectral sightings have happened at many of the local pubs. Why not organize a pub crawl around the cities most famously haunted pubs. Here are a few to get you going:

  • The Adam & Eve Pub. Located on Bishopbridge, the Adam and Eve is dated at 1249, making it “probably” the oldest pub in Norwich. The pub has been known for its ghosts, since 1549. The main ghost,  nicknamed Sam, is thought to be Lord Sheffield. Sheffield died during Robert Ketts rebellion. Unaware of the ritual of surrender–of which Sheffield did–Ketts men fatally wounded Sheffield with a cleaver.  He was immediately taken to the A&E, or the Adam and Eve Pub, where he died.
  • The Maids Head Hotel. There have been numerous spooky sightings at the Maids Head Hotel, which has a history dating back to the 13th century. A woman dressed in grey, believed to be a former maid, has been seen roaming the hotel hallways followed by the smell of musty lavender, a scent often used to hide the smell of the plague or buried.
  • The Gardener’s Arms/ Murderer’s Pub. Dating back to 1696, the Murderer’s Pub, also known as the Gardener’s Arms, boasts two tales of murder.  Philip Cutter, the pub’s owner discovered that the pub earned its gruesome nick-name from a murder that was committed by an ex-cavalryman, Frank Miles, who killed his estranged wife, Mildred (Millie) in June 1895 upon seeing her enter the pub with another man. Frank was tried and convicted to hang for his crime. Contemporary newspaper articles from 1895 are available on the walls of the pub for further reading. Learn more by visiting the pub’s website. http://www.themurderers.co.uk/norwich-pub-history.html
  • Lollards Pit Pub. Located on Riverside and built between 1620 and 1670, the pub was the site of execution for heretics and other offenders during the 15th and 16th Centuries. The pub’s cellar was a holding cell to hold prisoners (recently discovered) before they were burned at the stake. The bodies were put into the pit, which is located in the garden. Screams have been heard in the pub and are thought to be of the prisoners, witches and heretics.

5. Treat Yourself to Some Horrifying Tales!

There’s nothing quite like reading a great scary story. From Edgar Allan Poe to Bret Easton Ellis, the Memorial and Millennium Library has a spectacular selection of America’s greatest horrifying tales. Beware however, for it is not all concentrated in the fiction section. Come and explore the bizarre, the unexplained and dare we say supernatural side of American literature, film, crime and history. Here are just a few to get you started, all of which can be found and reserved on our online catalog:


If the horror genre is not quite right for you, you can still get into the Halloween spirit by reading about the masterminds behind some of America’s most famous fright fest films and novels.







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American Myths, Legends and Tall-Tales

This summer the Memorial Library is teaming up with the Children’s Library for the Summer Reading Challenge and we will be dazzling you with some A-Mazing book displays and events.


What is the Summer Reading Challenge? The Summer Reading Challenge is a reading incentive for children that takes place every year during the summer holidays. You can sign up your child at your local library. They read six library books of their choice, collecting stickers and other rewards along the way and some libraries host individual events to coincide with the challenge and many of the events are FREE! This year’s theme is Mythical Maze and it celebrates myths, legends and tall tales and boy do we have quite the collection of American myths, legends and folktales for the whole family to enjoy! 

Children’s Events

pocahontasThis summer the Memorial Library is hosting 3 free events for children aged 8-12 years. On Tuesday August 5th, we will be reading stories about the Powhatan princes, Pocahontas, who came to Norfolk from the Americas in the 17th century and learning about Native American dreamcatcherDream Catchers. In some Native American cultures, DreamCatchers are believed to  filter out or ‘catch’ all bad dreams, only allowing good thoughts to enter the mind. Once the sun rises, all bad dreams disappear. At this event, children will have the chance to make their own DreamCatchers which are often ornately decorated with feathers and beads.



The following week, on Tuesday August 12th, children are invited to hear the enchanting stories of Chinese American author, Grace Lin. Our American Scholars will tell the story of Minli, a young girl who lives in a WhereTheMountainMeetsTheMoonramshackle hut with her parents. In the evening her father tells her old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answers to all life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off for a quest in search of the Old Man of the Moon with hopes of changing her family’s fortune. Children will be encouraged to create their own mythical legend and create their own mythical dragon.


sleepy hollow 3

Finally, on Tuesday August 19th children will hear the legend of Sleepy Hollow and other American Tall-Tales. A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. They are often told in a way that makes the narrator seem to have been a part of the story. They are set in a familiar setting, such as the European countryside, the American frontier or the Canadian Northwest. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a short story by American author Washington Irving; it was first published in 1820.  “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is among the earliest examples of American fiction with enduring popularity. Can you write a legend just as good? Children will hear the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and create their own spooky stories about a location of their choosing. They will make a story flipbook to aid them in story development and creative writing.


Spaces are limited so be sure to call the Memorial Library to book your slot. 01603 774747 All events take place from 2-3:30pm.

For the Elders in the Family

Myths, Legends and American tall tales are not just for children. In fact, you can even study folklore as a profession; it’s called folkloristics. To coincide with the Children’s Summer Reading Challenge the Memorial Library will be celebrating American Myths, Spies and Legends throughout the month of August with book displays. American folklore encompasses the folk traditions that have evolved on the North American continent since Europeans arrived in the 16th century. While it contains much in the way of Native American tradition, it should not be confused with the tribal beliefs of any community of native people.

Here are just a few of our books on American folklore, myths and legends to get you started ahead of the game but do keep an eye out for our up coming display.

Myths and Legends

Johnny Applessed

cowboys myths


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