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Nobody Puts Popcorn in the Soda

May 8, 2017

First things first. I’m still standing. The Tour de Burgers didn’t kill me. Not that I was all that nervous, but wait until you see the official pictures.

If you can’t wait, you might want to check out the blogs of a few of the people who made it out on the tour. They don’t have to wade through all the scoresheets, so some of the attendees may be able to get a recap up faster than I can. All told, there were fourteen of them! Which I have to say is a lot more than I was expecting, given the grand task of eating five roadside burgers in one afternoon.

Those blogs would be I Like Food, Under The Copper Tree, Jon in Albany, and Burnt My Fingers. And actually, I saw some pics were already up on Instagram.

In the leadup to the actual tour this past Saturday, there was a lot of discussion about food in general, and how elements of taste applied to classic burger builds. And in some of that follow up discussion, I think I hit on a radical insight. Go with me on this.

Balance. We were talking about balance. And there were some elements out there who suggested the acidity of a pickle brings the mouth filling fattiness of a great burger into balance.

This fact is not in contention.

A cold crisp, assertive pickle, served alongside a hot juicy burger is a great joy. My original complaint was about crappy pickles served on an otherwise solid burger, where they steam and wilt.

I don’t need to rehash it here. That’s the joy of writing on the internet. We has links.

Ever since then, this idea has been rattling around in my mind, and I’m trying to not just untangle it, but to help show those doubters into the light. So I was thinking about the ideas of culinary contrasts, where they work, where they don’t, and why.

Chocolate covered pretzels. Totally work. Sweet. Salty. Crunchy. Creamy. Each element plays off the others. The good things each component brings to the experience aren’t diminished by the others. It’s a study in harmony.

There are plenty of things like this. One of my favorites is vanilla ice cream drizzled with olive oil and a little bit of sea salt.

On the flip side, you’ve got popcorn and soda. Hot, salty, buttery popcorn is a natural foil to cold, sweet, and acidic soda. It’s a tremendous battle in your mouth between polar opposites. But where does that battle end, and what is the lingering flavor you want to have in your mouth?

The right answer here is soda. However, that’s not the point.

The point here is that nobody puts popcorn in the soda. That would be patently ridiculous. It would ruin both things. Who wants a sweet and salty Coke with soggy pieces of popcorn, and an oil slick of butterfat floating on the top? It’s absurd on its face.

Hopefully this helps to demonstrate how there are times when culinary contrasts work together as composed bites, and other times when those same contrasts work together but are best kept separate.

What I’m really curious about is how the people who still maintain that pickles should be served within the confines of a burger bun feel about Hawaiian pizza. You know, that’s pizza with ham and pineapples on top of the cheese and tomato sauce.

It’s probably one of the most reviled pizza combination toppings in existence.

So, if you’re team pickles on burgers, I’m going to guess that you are also pro pineapple on pizza. And if you aren’t, I’m really curious to find out why. And vice versa. If you eschew pickles on your burgers, I’m going to assume that you also don’t want hot baked pineapple on your otherwise savory pies. But if you feel differently, I’m very curious about how those diverging stances exist in the same universe.

Am I right, or am I right?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Hollie Miller permalink
    May 8, 2017 9:57 am

    Oddly, i’m a love pineapple on pizza but hate pickles on burgers. Why? it’s the savory dill pickle slices that when warm, i am not a fan of. And sweet pickle slices, it’s just the crisp is on the outside of it and then it’s mush. But give me sweet relish on a burger and I am much happier. I grew up in a home with dill relish, so for the longest time I did not enjoy it on a burger or hot dog. Also there are enough crunchy bits for the texture. However, pineapple on a pizza I love. Mostly because most pizza sauces aren’t too bitter, so the sweetness works for me and the oven gives the pineapple skin a bit of bite. It’s strange I know but I’m one of your oddballs.

  2. Eric permalink
    May 8, 2017 10:24 am

    I love Hawaiian pizza.

  3. Randy K permalink
    May 8, 2017 10:32 am


  4. May 8, 2017 12:23 pm

    People put peanuts in soda…

  5. Cindy permalink
    May 8, 2017 1:25 pm

    I quite agree with you on the culinary contrasts concept. But on your final question, you’re only half right (at least in The World According to Me). NO pickles on burgers! But that’s because I don’t like pickles, period. Yet there’s nothing wrong with ham & pineapple on top of pizza! Not that I want to eat that variety all the time, but once in a while – and made well – it’s fantastic.

  6. KingOfBeacon permalink
    May 8, 2017 1:37 pm

    Being a chef one of my favorite things to cook (and eat) is food that is salty, sweet & sour at the same time. Think Asian or Latin. A good pickle on a burger is a-ok but pineapple on pizza is a travesty. But maybe I’m the crazy one. Last week I made a bbq beef pizza topped with my homemade hot sauce that I mixed with sour cream. I posted it on FB and people were freaking out that I put sour cream on pizza so….

    And I was introduced to peanuts in Coke when I lived down South. Loved it.

  7. Benjamin permalink
    September 12, 2017 5:52 pm

    If I am going to make my own pizza at home, my favorite combination is fresh tomatoes and bacon. It can’t be beat.

    However, if I am going to be eating a lot of pizza (like at a party) or ordering out I love Hawaiian pizza because it is both sweet and savory. I like it best with a blend of tomato and BBQ sauce instead of solid tomato sauce under the cheese. And, I like to brown the ham first in a pan first to rid it of excess moisture (that I know the pineapple is bringing to the party).

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