Banana-Mango Nut Muffins

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is the December/January book selection for Cook the Books.   I am hosting this round and it’s coming down to the wire.   I am actually impressed that I got this written and published this weekend instead of on January 31st deadline.  (You can read the announcement post here.)

I read this book in 2017 and was struck just how much food was mentioned in the book.   At the time I thought it would be a great recommendation for Cook the Books.

Here’s my Good Reads review from 2017:

I did love this book…even with all the coincidence…even with all the improbability…even with the sometimes dark themes.

The Language of Flowers is a cross between White Oleander (because of the foster care system depiction) and Garden Spells (because of the power of the flowers).

Victoria has aged-out of the foster care system and finds herself homeless and without any job prospects. But, she has the “language of flowers” to fall back on. Her gift lands her a job with a local florist and allows her to reconnect with her past while visiting the flower market.

Victoria’s “gift” with the language of flowers is more of her education and knowledge versus a mystical talent. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the book as much if Diffenbaugh had gone over to the mystical side.

I didn’t like Part 4 as much as the first three sections of the book. To discuss it further would be a spoiler. Just suffice it to say that Victoria has to work through some “mommy issues.”

While rereading for this event, I was struck with just how much of the plot I had forgotten.  In my head, I remembered a happy ending early on.  I had totally forgotten the pain and emotion of Part 4.  (Maybe that’s why I state I did not enjoy it.)     On my second reading of the novel, I could not get past the outrageous pain, danger, and psychological issues that Victoria deals with.   How did she survive and even thrive (though some would argue that last point)?

How many Victorias are out there that do not thrive or survive?   I can’t even fathom it.


On a happier note, I did enjoy my reread that came with many more insights.  I truly enjoyed the lesson in flower symbolism and even bought a flower dictionary for future use.   As I reread, I also kept a list of the food mentioned in the novel.  (If you’re interested, it is at the end of this post.)

Roasted chicken becomes a food that is mentioned a couple of times and it is the meal that Grant cooks hoping that Victoria will return.    I really wanted to do a full meal of roasted chicken and vegetables  to pay my respects to Grant and his faithfulness.  Instead I ran out of time.

My recipe for The Language of Flowers may be a bit odd and a reach.   I remembered during the first reading that there was a peach-banana pancake concoction that sounded so comforting.  I found that reference again in the breakfast that Elizabeth makes for Victoria to help her feel loved and at home.   Instead of pancakes, I made muffins and instead of peaches, I used mangoes.  It all makes sense, right?

My flower dictionary.

Banana-Mango Nut Muffins

Debra (and mom)

I used a banana muffin recipe from my mom and modified it a bit.


  • 2 1/4 c. fine whole wheat flour
  • 3 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. Himalayan pink sea salt, fine
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. pure vanilla
  • 1/2 c. pecans or walnuts  (I used black walnuts.)
  • 1/2 c. frozen mango, thawed and diced


  1. In a mixing bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine bananas, sugar, cooled butter, and eggs.  Blend until smooth.
  3. Add the contents of the blender to the dry ingredients and mix just until it is half mixed.  Add the nuts and mix just until the flour is moist.  Do not over mix as that will result in misshapen muffins.
  4. Place in lined regular muffin cups and bake at 375 degrees about 20 minutes.

Even though it’s a stretch to connect this recipe to the novel, I do think these muffins could have certainly come out of Elizabeth’s kitchen (or later, Grant’s).     These are pretty darn delicious muffins!

Please note that the round-up for The Language of Flowers will be up during the first week of February at Cook the Books.   If you’re participating, you do have a few more days left before the end of the month deadline.   I do have to apologize that we didn’t host this book during the growing season when edible flowers could be found or during the farmer’s market season.   I know my recipe might have been totally different.

Food in The Language of Flowers

There’s so much food in this novel, perhaps to help comfort as one reads this tale of survival and ultimate triumph and hope.

  • a pinch of dried basil, hate (5)
  • two peaches and a half-pound of cherries (9)
  • fish and chips and a chocolate milkshake (10)
  • sampling an olive, a slice of Canadian bacon, or a sliver of Havart. I asked the questions Elizabeth would have asked: which olive oils were unfiltered; exactly how “ fresh ” was the albacore, the salmon, the sole; how sweet were the season’s first blood oranges ? (22)
  • half-eaten lasagna or risotto (23)
  • Tequila (23)
  • Big bowls of pasta, thick slices of ham, cherry tomatoes, green apples, American cheese stacked in clear plastic sleeves, even a spoon full of peanut butter (27)
  • Donuts (31)
  • “It was enough time for her to eat a taco and drink three large Diet Cokes, and for me to eat a chicken burrito, two cheese enchiladas, a side of guacamole, and three baskets of chips.” (51)
  • scrambled eggs (56)
  • pink-and-white-striped beans, tan-colored pumpkins with long necks, purple potatoes mixed with yellow and red (56)
  • .a bag of nectarines and a stolen green grape (56) 
  • three pounds of grapes, six nectarines, and a bag of dried apricots (57)
  • A yellow plum (57)
  • peach-banana pancakes (62)
  • Peppermint blossoms (warmth of feeling) (63)
  • Donuts for dinner (71)
  • oatmeal (75)
  • plate of sliced pear and a muffin (76)
  • …American cheese in my desk drawer. The pears on the plate were peeled and cored; the muffin was full of warm chunks of banana and melted peanut-butter chips. (76)
  • glass of milk (76)
  • maple bar and chocolate old-fashioned (83)
  • glazed and a sprinkled donuts (84)
  • sprigs of rosemary — which I had learned at the library could mean commitment as well as remembrance — (93)
  • A sandwich on a thick French roll: turkey, bacon, tomato,, and avocado, with mayonnaise (94).
  • ham sandwich (95)
  • box of chocolates (dark chocolate with nuts and caramel), two glasses of milk (102)
  • cans of tomato soup (111)
  • chicken curry (115)
  • Tea (116)
  • rice and soy sauce (117)
  • sandwiches and edible flowers (118)
  • chicken soup (120)
  • Grapes from the vineyard (121)
  • “two bowls and loaves of bread as big as cantaloupes” (121)
  • Something spicy with shrimp (125)
  • yogurt and a gallon of orange juice (125)
  • beef ravioli (125)
  • Payday candy bar (129)
  • Chocolate soufflé (133)
  • canned soup and whole loaves of bread or frozen pizzas (136)
  • Roasted chicken with rosemary and new potatoes “the flavor inversely proportional to the amount of effort that had gone into the preparation” (137)
  • blackberry cobbler and homemade ice cream (140)
  • Ollalieberries, raspberries, boysenberries, Blenheim apricots (141)
  • Pizza (145)
  • Processed ham (152)
  • Apple cider (152)
  • large wooden tray with sliced oranges, nuts, figs, and dates (152)
  • The first held a large baked fish, whole, with spices and some kind of root vegetables. The second held beans, peas, and potatoes with parsley. She handed me a fork and a spoon, and a bowl of mushroom soup (153)
  • Coffee (153)
  • tiny white chamomile (159)
  • loaf of raisin bread (167)
  • *baguette stuffed with something — cream cheese, maybe, or something fancier — with bits of chopped herbs, olive, and capers (175)
  • Rib roast with a sauce of mushrooms, turnips and red potatoes (176)
  • Cupcakes frosted with thick purple roses ( 178)
  • blackberry cobbler, peach pie, and chocolate mousse (184)
  • Bacon sandwich (196)
  • *bold brides carried ceramic bowls of strawberries or fragrant clusters of fennel, and no one questioned their aesthetics but rather marveled at the simplicity of their desire (270)
  • Donuts, roasted chicken, cheesecake, and butternut squash soup, extra hot (286)
  • gravy and a long tray of roasted vegetables: beets, potatoes, and peppers in vibrant colors. While he served me vegetables, I finished sucking the meat off the bones of the first drumstick. I set the clean bone down in a pool of gravy, and Grant took his seat in the chair opposite mine  (293)
  • Leftover lentil soup and vanilla ice cream (300)
  • Thanksgiving dinner mentioned (305)

I’m linking up with Foodies Read.

7 comments to Banana-Mango Nut Muffins

  • These muffins sound really wonderful with the combo of bananas and mangoes.

  • This book has so many foodie references. I did not plan well to participate but hoping to get on board with more events now that I’m retired.

    The muffins are perfect for my morning coffee. You always have such a nice presentation.

  • Pam

    I actually read this book and remember that I really enjoyed it; however, it was so long ago it’s hard to remember the details, so I will be digging it out and thumbing through it soon, esp. Part 4. And then after reading this, I bought “A Victorian Flower Dictionary” also. Good little interesting book! Your muffins look delicious, wish I had one now!

  • Having adopted my own daughter who had been in the foster system for many years I really enjoyed this novel and thought it was spot on. Thanks for choosing it and hosting this month. Love the muffins

  • I didn’t realize when reading the book that there were actually so many food references! Your banana mango combination sounds lovely in those muffins.

  • Your muffins look delicious! And I love that you listed all of the food references. There were SO many, weren’t there?! Great pick.

  • When I start reading a book for Cook the Books I plan to be more organized and keep a running list of the foods mentioned, then I lose track. You are a role model! Victoria definitely has an appetite. The combination banana-mango sounds quite appealing: great choice of recipe 🙂