My love for Panera runs deeper than Kanye's love for Kanye. Just this week, I saw the commercial for the Turkey Cranberry Flatbread Sandwich and Autumn Squash soup, and at once, I lost all sense of purpose. Like, I'm pretty sure things needed to get done that day, but suddenly nothing else mattered. Not only did I feel the need to tweet at them the way Directioners tweet at Harry Styles, I immediately hopped into my car, drove to the nearest Panera, and stood in line with eyes so wide that other customers were doing double-takes.
The employees of Panera were, of course, unfazed. They are champions of what they do and by now, they are more than accustomed to rabid bread fans such as myself. In fact, fist bump to every Panera employee on the planet, because I was working at a competing sandwich/bakery shop down the street from a Panera for eight months after college, and every time I slinked into Panera to get food after a shift, not one of them said a word. It was a judgment-free safe space, and I'll never forget that.
I'm not sure what the world did to deserve the existence of Panera. There are some gifts in life that are better not to question. Besides, when I'm there, my mind is far too overwhelmed with declarations of Panera love to make room for anything else, including and not limited to:
Oh My God, How Can I Ever Make A Decision Again
Anything you could ever aspire to eat is on this menu. I have had more than one existential crisis standing in their line, and I know I'm not the only one. How many times have you heard a customer stammer, "I...uh...um...just go ahead of me, I'm not ready"? A bazillion times, that's how many.
I Must Consume Every Seasonal Thing I Possibly Can
Who KNOWS when I'll be in Panera next? (Answer: most likely tomorrow. But I digress.) Strawberry salads and cookies shaped like giant Easter eggs don't last forever. In fact, all life on earth is fleeting. So clearly while I'm here I better eat this all.
Today Is The Day I Eat The Entire Bread Bowl
It hasn't happened yet, but every time I try, I get a little stronger. I'm working my way up to this the way long distance runners train for marathons. And I'm in this for the long haul, baby. That bread bowl is my Everest, and I'm not sorry for my life choices.
How Long Until Science Can Install My Extra Stomach?
The "You Pick Two" menu has been glorious for my inability to make decisions about food, but it has also presented a challenge that I cannot face alone. I need science on my side. If nature let cows have a bunch of extra stomachs for grass, why can't I have just one for Panera?!
The Answer Is ALWAYS BREAD
You know you want the side of bread. They know you want the side of bread. But because they are diligent and kind, Panera employees will ask you if you want a side of chips, apple or bread anyway.
Muffies = Proof That Panera Will Someday Rule The World
For so long mankind has stumbled in the effort to create a muffin top so accessible that you don't even have to deal with the bottom, lesser part of the muffin. Enter Panera, our modern hero, who not only created the Muffie, but also quietly, humbly offers pumpkin muffies every single day of the year.
I Should Probably Grab Some Dinner As Well
You're technically here for lunch, but you'll be hungry for dinner in a few hours. And while you're here you might as well grab tomorrow's breakfast. And tomorrow's lunch. Look at you, being so resourceful! At least until you broke down and ate it all in the parking lot.
Is That A #@($ing DRIVE THRU?!
This has been happening all over the nation: drive-thru Paneras. Now you don't even have to hazard the elements to get your egg and cheese bagel on. (Side note: I'm still afraid I'm going to wake up one day and discover that drive-thru Paneras are a figment of my imagination.)
But I Don't Even LIKE Salad
I am not a vegetable person. Last month I had a stick of celery and I think I'm good for another six months, like getting the oil changed in a car. But Panera salads are different. They transcend vegetables. My willingness to eat a Panera salad is probably the only reason my immune system is still functional today.
I'm Only Going To Eat Half Of This Giant Cookie
Self-control is totally easy, I read about it in a book once.
Wait, Where Did My Giant Cookie Go?
Damn you, Panera. I am powerless to your charms.
How Many Of These Butters Can I Fit Into My Purse?
I don't know what it is about the little butters at Panera. I'm sure that they taste like any other butter you get at the grocery store. But for some reason I feel possessed to stick like six of these babies in my purse for safekeeping, where I promptly forget about them and cause giant butter explosions in the summer.
I Can't Move
There is too much Panera inside of me. I'd ask someone to carry me to my car, but we're all equally incapacitated.
Everyone Here Is Wonderful
I don't even know these other customers, but I love them. Does that woman in the booth over there have butternut squash?! Is it too forward to ask if she'd be the godmother of my future children?
I Should Bake My Own Bread
It smells delicious in here. My house could smell like this ALL THE TIME. Also, Peeta baked bread and he totally survived the Hunger Games, so this idea is six levels of practical.
Panera Is 100% Catering My Future Wedding
In fact, I might as well just book them for my funeral while I'm at it.
How Mad Would They Get If I Tried To Live Here?
Cozy booths. WiFi. UNLIMITED FOOD. I could scour the universe and never find a place that feels more like home.