Allow me to posit a strange theory: crunch and umami are the same thing.
There is an obvious counter-argument: they are not the same thing. Umami is a flavor and crunch is a texture. Umami is used to describe burgers and cheese while crunch is used to describe granola and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate sea salt almonds (may I recommend…).
But my theory is that the satisfaction they offer is the same. The visceral pleasure of biting into a perfectly roasted portobello mushroom (or steak, if you must) is the same as the joy of shattering a potato chip in your mouth, or even stomping on a crisp autumn leaf. They feel more primal than other sensations, almost barbarian, like they’re tied to our earliest evolutionary impulses. Perhaps: umami is to crunch as meat is to bones.
All of this is to say, popcorn and pomegranate seeds make an ideal snack combo.
So many delightful flavor contrasts: the pomegranate seeds bring the sweet and sour with just a hint of bitterness, while the popcorn gives you a punch of salt. The only flavor group missing is umami.
But they’re both. Extremely. CRUNCHY!
We all know the dry crunch of popcorn is its primary appeal, along with its function as a flavor vehicle (Terry Pratchett on popcorn: “When you put salt and butter on it, it tastes like salty butter.”). But pomegranate seeds offer a rarer and more controversial pleasure: the wet crunch. Only otherwise found in fish roe, cherry tomatoes, and the confusing balls inside Orbitz soda, the wet crunch is the experience of biting down on something with taut surface tension that bursts to release liquid in your mouth. Many people hate this; I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Now you may ask: do they both go in the same bowl? And the answer, of course, is how dare you. I’m an innovator, not a heathen. (I tried it this way once and honestly didn’t hate it but it was alarmingly easy to mistake unpopped kernels for pomegranate seeds.) Separate bowls allow for yet another lovely contrast: temperature. Hot popcorn with cold pomegranate seeds: chef’s kiss. Every time your mouth gets used to one, switch to the other for a whole new experience! I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this.
Other unexpected popcorn toppings I love:
Fancy popcorn brings me joy because it’s deceptively simple but FEELS special and extra. Great for parties, great for movie dates, great for treating yourself!