A couple weeks ago, I did an Instagram poll about what topics you all might like to see here on the blog. Practical recipes (as opposed to cake) were a popular request, as was labor equity in the home. Of course, since recipe development can take a couple weeks or months, I was working on a fancy cookie recipe at the time of the survey, so that’s what you’re seeing first. ><
Robin and I are working on a new project for which I’ve spent some time reading about queer Victorian history. One of the topics of interest for me is The Language of Flowers, which I first encountered in the Japanese drama Kekkon Shinai (結婚しない, literally “Unmarried” or “I Won’t Get Married”; the official English title is Wonderful Single Life). In this drama about “unconventional” relationships and dating, one of the male love interests works in a flower shop, and so every episode centers around the Japanese version of The Language of Flowers (花言葉, Hana kotoba).
As a queer person who makes a slightly more than causal study of the history of queer codes and slang, I wanted to know what lavender meant in the language of flowers since the color itself is one of many symbols associated with queer culture. Lavender (the flowering herb) has a variety of meanings, including distrust, as we see in Emily Greenaway’s 1884 The Language of Flowers (Project Gutenberg). A Victorian Flower Dictionary: The Language of Flowers Companion, a 2011 book that was published alongside a novel called The Language of Flowers, explains that the meaning of distrust (or mistrust) was given because people used to think that asps nested beneath lavender. (This book parrots a lot of 19th century Orientalist nonsense without challenging any of it, and for that reason, I cannot recommend it.)
A queer reading of the Victorian assignment of the flower could interpret the asp as cisheteronormativity—you’re just there to pick the lavender and live your best life, and boom! Here comes the poisonous snake of Straight/Cis Fragility to ruin everything. Alternatively, distrust could represent the distrust cisgender and straight folks have of the queer and trans community, especially those of us whose sexual orientation, sexuality, or gender identity doesn’t fit into a strict, static binary. Our existence threatens the gender binary system, which is also quite Victorian in the notion of claiming to have a “scientific” or “moral” basis and yet having none. The truth is that our contemporary society hinges on many of the cissexist and heterocentrist notions of binary gender medicalized and codified in the Victorian period. Put simply, queer folks are not simply trusted to live our own our lives. But “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio / than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Lavender the plant has calming and healing properties. Robin and I use lavender essential oil at home in massage oils and skin balms, in baths, and as a means of calming panic attacks and anxiety (in combo with therapy and medication, don’t @ me with your ableist nonsense). The buds can be used in cooking, as in the recipe below, in tea, in sachets, or to infuse alcohol.
I’d like to propose a new meaning for a queer language of flowers: lavender, in addition to meaning “queer” in general, is a flower for healing from our communal trauma from living in a cisheteronormative society that seems hellbent on destroying us.
ALOK (they/them) on breaking down how transmisogyny against nonbinary and gender nonconforming people works as a form of societal gaslighting.
Heron Green (she/her//they/them) on biphobia and food insecurity.
Lavender and chocolate may not be a “classic” pairing in popular food culture, but I rather like the combination of floral, bitter, and rich flavors. Finding a recipe that has the same cooking time and temperature for the chocolate and lavender parts is key—mixing two recipes will yield undercooked chocolate or too-dry lavender. (I tried it with cake once and do not recommend.)
Rolling the two doughs into the pinwheel can be finicky if your kitchen is too warm but can be managed with refrigeration and patience.
Lavender-Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies
Adapted from “Pinwheel Icebox Cookies,” The Joy of Cooking (2006), p. 776.
Prep: 30-40 minutes, depending on dough consistency
Resting: 4-12 hours
Cooking: 20-25 minutes
Total: about 2 hours (since the dough will need to rest, you can break this into smaller chunks of time)
Yields ~40 cookies
1.5 cups (190 g) all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp (7.5 g) baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tsp culinary lavender, chopped
10 TBSP (140 g / 1.25 sticks) butter, softened
⅔ cup (133 g) sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 ounces (55 g) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly*
- (Double boiler for melting chocolate)
- Stand mixer or hand mixer
- 1 medium bowl
- 1 large bowl or stand-mixer bowl
- Parchment paper or wax paper
- Rolling pin
- 2 cookie sheets
- A sharp knife (I like a chef’s knife or Santoku)
- Optional: kitchen scale (for dividing the dough)
- Cookie tin (metal preferred for keeping the cookies crisp)
*For the chocolate, I like to start the chocolate melting in a double boiler just before I do the other prep, then let it cool while I’m finishing the dough.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
- In a stand mixer or using a hand mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
- Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
- Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture until combined.
- Divide the dough into two even portions (preferably by weight). Set aside the lavender-only portion. For the chocolate portion, knead the cooled melted chocolate into the dough until combined.
- If the dough is too warm to roll out, cover and chill until firm, about 30 minutes
- To roll the dough: place each flavor between two pieces of parchment paper and roll each to equal lengths, ⅛ inch thickness.
- After rolling out, gently remove the parchment paper form one side of each. If the dough sticks, refrigerate for another 30 minutes, keeping the dough in the parchment flat by laying it on the cookie sheets.
- When the parchment can be safely removed without the dough sticking to it and tearing: Place the lavender layer with the parchment still on on the table and remove the top piece of parchment. Remove one side of the parchment from the chocolate layer and place the chocolate dough on top of the lavender dough so it lines up.
- Remove the top parchment from the chocolate side. Using the bottom parchment on the lavender dough, roll the dough together like a jelly roll.
- When the roll is complete, twist off the ends of the parchment and refrigerate for 4-12 hours or freeze 2-12 hours.
- Chill the cookie sheets in refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking.
- When you are ready to bake, grease the cookie sheets well or use more parchment (not wax) paper. Slice the roll into 3/16 inch (1/2 cm) pieces and set about 2 inches (5 cm) apart (they will expand). If your cookies near the ends of the roll have a bit of a hole in the middle, don’t worry, the baking powder will make the gaps close.
- Bake for 8-12 minutes (10-12 if the dough was frozen) until the edges are lightly golden.
- Cool slightly and remove to a cooling rack. Store in a tin or ceramic cookie tin (plastic will make them soft).