I seek inspiration for my bento lunches in the things my children love. Corduroy by Don Freeman has been a favorite of my oldest since he got it for Christmas the year he was one. His Aunt Mary, who gave it to him, seemed a little puzzled that he was most drawn to the escalator part. We would start the story and he would want to skip ahead, or I would try to finish and he’d grab the pages to flip back to it.
Now that he’s older, he appreciates the full story and (I hope) the message. Better still, it’s something he now shares with his younger brothers.
[Spoiler Alert!] Corduroy is an adventurous, upbeat Department Store bear. He’s been on the shelf for a while and so he is missing one button. In the original book, he goes on an adventure in the store looking for his lost button before eventually getting adopted by a young girl named Lisa.
I have been struggling to find something appropriate and natural to make Corduroy’s green overalls. I considered pesto, but that seemed really messy for a school lunch. After writing up a recent post on Bolani flatbread, I realized I could use the spinach variety and peel away the top layer of bread to reveal the green beneath.
The lines weren’t super clean, but it worked. If I did this again for my younger son, I’d be able to use nori, which would probably come out looking great. He’s recently discovered he likes it and I’ve had to take the bag away from him when he’s gotten into it and eaten entire sheets of it.
When I added the bear face from my Niko-Niko punch and the apple button, I thought it passed reasonably well for Corduroy.
At each new discovery Corduroy shows awe and wonder. When he winds up on the Department Store escalator, he says, “This must be a mountain. I think I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain.” In the resolution of the story, Corduroy finally has a family and a home. He exclaims, “I know I’ve always wanted a home.”
I knew I had to have this element in my bento. I used a house-shaped cookie cutter to make the outline from the sandwich. (This could easily be done by hand.) I didn’t want to generate too much waste so I cut one slice of bread in uneven halves. The larger half was just big enough for the cutter. The smaller was close to big enough and wasn’t going to show– I was happy to compromise the form to reduce waste.
I cut the bread from the top layer only for the windows. I liked the red showing through and I think the shape would have been muddled had I tried to cut through the entire sandwich. I tried to cut the door in a way to keep it propped open, but I didn’t leave myself quite enough room for that with the positioning of the windows.
I included the escalator from the story, since that had special meeting for my son. I cut this from an apple with a knife. I propped the escalator on a bed of grapes when laying out the bento. This added a bit more nutrition to the lunch and helped the apple to not get lost with the other elements.
I used my alphabet cookie cutters to shape the name Corduroy. I propped this up on a little tabouleh I had leftover. I usually prefer to use greens for this, because my son is somewhat likely to eat those. We were out, so this went on the shopping list for next week.
Now I’ve just got to dream up my next children’s literary-themed lunch. Any suggestions?