This Olive Garden Fan Fiction Challenge Is The Most Glorious Thing On The Internet

I know, I know — “Olive Garden fan fiction” is not a phrase I ever thought I would encounter in my lifetime, either. But now that you and I have both introduced this somewhat unexpected concept to our brains, Gentle Reader, let us explore it more fully — because it is, astonishingly, one of the greatest things you will read today. No, really. I promise. It is everything you think it will be, and more.

Much, much more.

It began with an essay. The essay is called “Christ in the Garden of Endless Breadsticks” — a perfect title if I’ve ever seen one — and it is by writer and editor Helen Rosner. It is about many things, this essay, but most of all, it is about a sense of place — or, more accurately, a sense of non-place. Early on in the essay, Rosner sums up the entire point of Olive Garden as an institution as follows: “Its product is nominally pasta and wine, but what Olive Garden is actually selling is Olive Garden, a room of comfort and familiarity, a place to return to over and over.”

Later on, though, she really nails how effective Olive Garden really is at selling Olive Garden:

That last line? It is glorious. (In fact, that is why I bolded it — I really, really wanted to make sure no one missed it. It is just that good.) And then one Twitter user managed to pinpoint exactly why:

As the youths say: Accurate. I may have had a small "Eureka!" moment as that concept clicked into place in my brain.

It was then that Rosner laid out her challenge: “Holy crap I will buy dinner for 4 at Olive Garden for anyone who writes a real short story with this as the opening line,” she tweeted. The rules were as follows:

And then, just in case clarification was required:

And then? The entries came pouring in.

Computational social scientist David Masad was the first entrant; his tale of Deborah, a woman who discovers the joys of experiencing Olive Garden as a kind of cosmic waystation, has no title, but includes this gem:

Read the whole thing here.

“Folks, @badnetworker wrote a perfect little short storybased on my Olive Garden prompt and gets a free dinner!” tweeted Rosner.

Next was arts nonprofit development writer Genevieve Oliver, who spun a coming-of-age story in a dystopian setting. Here’s a taste of that one:

Read the whole thing here.

Tweeted Rosner, “And here's a wonderful Olive Garden story from @vittorioe! I'm so amazed y'all are doing this.”

Then, she upped the ante a little:


Writer Curtis Døde Aldri‏ came next with “Infinite Bread-Sticks Of The Soul, Mind And Body (Reality Vs. Pasta),” which he published on Medium. This one turns Olive Garden into a sort of NoEnd House full of pasta and bread sticks:

Read the whole thing here.

(He noted at the bottom of his story, “If you are curious, [Rosner] donated my dinner cause there’s no way I’d actually ever again eat at Olive Garden.”)

I’m not totally sure when Rosner hit the “first four” mark —as she noted in a later tweet, some people submitted their stories to her privately — but the last she retweeted came from sports writer Michael Harshbarger, a puzzling tale titled "The OG" that honestly sounds kind of like a bad trip. It includes this excerpt:

Read the whole thing here.

There are more stories to be found if you scroll through the replies to the tweet that laid out the rules — and honestly, if you spent your entire day doing nothing but reading Olive Garden fan fiction, I would say that it was a completely acceptable use of your time. Because sometimes, we all just need to be a little ridiculous.

Rosner, by the way, was recently in Eastern Europe. While she was there, she tweeted this photo:

When asked where the doors were, she replied, “They are infinite.”

May your life, too, be full of infinite doors and never-ending soup, salad, and bread sticks.