The Pull of Panera

At least once a week I make the short trek from our office to Panera for lunch. It started off innocently enough – a simple craving for a bread bowl of hot soup and a turkey sandwich on freshly baked sourdough. Before this little tradition started it had been quite some time since I had eaten at a Panera, so it’s hard to say what it was that made me crave it so much.

Maybe it was the inability to eat another meal from Subway? While Subway has agreed to stop using the bread recipe that includes an ingredient found in yoga mats, after hearing they’d previously used this chemical to “stretch their bread” (or poison us) I’m a little skeptical of their products. I use a yoga mat on an almost nightly basis for… wait for it…. YOGA, not as a mid-day snack. I have had this mat for sometime now and while the hot pink color is alluring, I can honestly say I have never had the urge during a class to bend down and take a gigantic bite out of it. 

Was it a desire to eat among shrieking toddlers? Don’t get me wrong I love children, I even want some of my own one day. However, I would prefer to not have the out of control screaming ones as a side dish for my meal.

Or could it have been the fond memories I have from working there in high-school so many years ago? I can say with a 100 percent confidence that this is not the reason. While I did not mind my short stint as a cashier I spent most of my Saturday mornings in a zombie like state, downing Tylenol to subdue my headache, all while trying to not barf all over the bagel bins. To this day I still refuse to eat asiago cheese anything (the smell is bad enough) and I simply will not touch the onion soup (I was fortunate enough to witness a co-worker swat a fly into a fresh batch).

While I may not know where this mysterious urge arouse from, I can pinpoint the exact reason why I return each week. What is this reason you may be wondering?

Is is the wide selection of tasty soups and sandwiches? The sweet smelling baked goods? How about the welcoming ambiance?

The answer is: NO. It is none of those things.

My new weekly obsession with having lunch at Panera is all about the CONDIMENTS!

Every week, usually on a Friday, I walk into this restaurant with a huge smile on my face. I saunter up to the counter order my sierra turkey on sourdough (I always get the same thing) and happily enjoy a short break from work. However, the best part is yet to come. Once we are finished eating I make my way to the condiment station and stuff my to go bag full of all the wonderful goodies they have to offer. Olive oil mayonnaise, salt, pepper, Tabasco, sugar substitutes, yellow mustard, and the best one of all spicy brown mustard. (This stuff is amazing, I think I eat at least six packets on one sandwich. If I thought it was socially acceptable I would probably sit at the table and suck it directly from the packet).

Weird? Some might say so.

Crazy? Probably.

All I know is that as I make me way back to the office with my newly harvested stash, I have a feeling of great satisfaction. As you can imagine after doing this on a weekly basis I must have obtained quite a haul. Well ladies and gentlemen I present to you, the condiment drawer!

Behold the condiment drawer!!

Behold the condiment drawer!!

Nestled among various other food items, napkins, and tampons of course, are the condiments I have procured over the past few weeks. (Note: As you can plainly see there is also a rather sharp knife in there. I use it for cutting my grapefruit in the morning, I assure you it’s not there to shank anyone who tries to steal one of my precious mustard packets.)

Yes, at first glance this may seem like an excessive stock pile. However, the horror of one day glancing down at an empty drawer gives me anxiety as I slowly realize I will have to eat my lunch … gasp PLAIN! Finding an empty drawer would probably cause me to enter a dissociative fugue state which would assure my commitment to a mental ward. As enticing as this sounds, to be on the safe side, I think for now I will continue my weekly hunting and gathering mission.

Call me nuts if you must, but don’t come crying to me when you go to eat a sandwich only to realize you are out of mustard.

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