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The D-Spot + The Language of Flowers #CooktheBooks


This time around, Debra of Eliot's Eats is the December 2019 - January 2020 host for Cook the Books. She selected The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh*  and you can read her announcement here.

It turns out that it was written by someone I know...sort of. Well, I know her husband as he's the superintendent of our school district and, for three years, we sat in meetings every month as the high school moved through its certification as an IB (International Baccalaureate) school. But I never put that together until I was staring at the cover and thought, "That's a fairly unusual last name. I wonder if they are related." They are!

And I was really curious about her connection to the foster care system. I found this article from 2015 that appeared in the Monterey County Weekly. I really didn't think it was possible to like the Diffenbaughs any more than I already did. But, reading that article, I realized just how truly impressive they are. We need more people like them in this world.

In any case, you have plenty of time to join the Cook the Books fun if you wish. Remember, it's the December-January selection...and it's only the first week of December.

On the Page

The story opens with Victoria who has just turned 18 and aging out of the foster care system. We learn that she had been abandoned as a baby and for the past eighteen years has been bounced from foster home to foster home and, finally, group home after group home. She was abused, by some caregivers, but mostly just unloved and that perpetual state of emotional uncertainty hardened her into person who wants only a locked door and no one to disappoint.

When she leaves the group home, she ends up living in a park in the middle of San Francisco until she lands a job working with a florist. I worked as florist my last two years of college in Berkeley, so I devoured the descriptions of the middle-of-the-night flower markets, the stress of dealing with wedding arrangements, and joy that flowers can bring. I could completely relate to Victoria as a florist...as an angry, lonely young woman not so much.

I am not going to ruin the story for you, suffice it to say: for someone who keeps everyone at arms' length, she ends up with a whole tribe of people who care for her, including a flower vendor at the market who is connected to her past.

Diffenbaugh jumps back and forth in time between 9-year-old Victoria and the one foster mom who actually understood her and planned to adopt her to adult Victoria who actively shoves people out of her life. It's a captivating story and I am definitely going to track down more of her books.

I loved the characters. I loved the story. And I, especially, loved the messages of the flowers. When I was a florist, I not only created bouquets whose flowers added interesting textures and colors, but I did know the meanings behind them. I didn't always tell the customers the meanings, but I enjoyed adding in secret messages to my arrangements.

On the Plate

For a book about flowers, there is a surprising amount of food. Victoria is punished by foster families who withhold food. And food is also the way that people include her in their family - by inviting her to their tables and feeding her.

I decided to highlight a fun box of a dozen doughnuts because they played a part in her first encounter with the mysterious flower vendor outside of the market...and because I was supporting a culinary program at a local high school. More about that in a second.

The vendor had left her a message at his stand. "On the underside of ribbon, in a scratchy hand I recognized from flower prices on the chalkboard, were the words Monday, 5 p.m., 16th and Mission. Donuts for Dinner. The black ink had spread onto the silk so that the words were almost unreadable, but the time and place were clear" (pg. 71).

Okay, so I didn't serve them for dinner, but they were breakfast for the robotics team! One of my good friends from college runs the culinary program at a local high school and I try to support their program whenever I can. When she posted about a pop-up doughnut sale, I placed a pre-order and swung in after work to pick them up on the designated day.

Oh, and about the spelling - I've always spelled them 'doughnuts' - Jenn Erickson also spells them that way - but Diffenbaugh spelled them 'donuts.' I'm not sure what is correct. How do you spell them??

The D-Spot

And I know this post doesn't include a recipe, but maybe you'll be inspired to make some of your own creative doughnuts.

As I mentioned: I love supporting kids embracing the culinary arts. And Jenn doesn't just teach them how to cook; she guides them to making culinary a career, if they want. I so admire her...and her students' creativity. Case in point - these doughnuts and their pop-up doughnut shop called 'The D-Spot.' Go, Breakers!!


The Red & Gold - which are their school colors - is a doughnut topped with chocolate ganache, raspberry drizzle, chocolate curls, and 14K gold flakes


Rainbow Brite: fruity pebbles and sparkle to inspire your inner unicorn


The Screamsicle: a shockingly good orange cream-glazed treat


Cookie Monster: googly-eyed, blue, and locaded with mini choolate chip cookies


Canadian Bacon: it's all about the maple and bacon, eh

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

 
In addition to submitting this to #CooktheBooks, I am adding it to #FoodieReads.
Click to see what everyone else read in December 2019: here.

Comments

  1. I loved the book too. What fun little donuts. I used to spell them doughnuts but I think you and I were the only people in the world to still do so, so now I spell them donuts and I spell catsup, ketchup. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  2. This book sounds really intriguing - and what a small world moment to realize you know the person who wrote it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Donuts were one of the very first things I ever baked, as a teen. And, what a fantastic selection of them you featured! I loved the book, just finished it, just need to decide on the food???

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the Screamsicle! So cool :)

    ReplyDelete

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