Creamy New England clam chowder. Photo
We’re happy as a clam that today is National Clam Chowder Day. (Although as our colleague Philip has always asked, why is a clam so happy? It sits immobile on the ocean floor, waiting to be scooped up for someone’s dinner.)
You can celebrate with New England Clam Chowder (sometimes called Boston Clam Chowder), Manhattan Clam Chowder or even Rhode Island Clam Chowder; restaurants tend to serve one or the other. New England Clam Chowder is the oldest version.
According to the book 50 Chowders by Jasper White, the oldest-known printed chowder recipe is for fish chowder, printed in the Boston Evening Post on September 23, 1751. It calls for onions, pork, salt, pepper, parsley, sweet marjoram, savory, thyme and a biscuit (later replaced by oyster crackers or saltines served with the soup instead of cooked into it)—ingredients that are still used today.
Types Of Clam Chowder
New England Clam Chowder. If you like creamy soups, the New England style may be more of your cup of soup. It’s milk- or cream-based (with flour as a thickener), and splattering it is unlikely to permanently ruin that shirt or tie.
Manhattan Clam Chowder. If you want to save calories or cut back on cholesterol, Manhattan Clam Chowder is based on broth and tomatoes. It is actually an Italian clam soup, arriving on these shores with Italian immigrants in the late 1800s. It tends to be seasoned with oregano, from its Italian heritage. The original Italian soup achieved broader appeal with the name of New York Clam Chowder, which evolved to Manhattan Clam Chowder.
Rhode Island Clam Chowder. This variation, found chiefly in Rhode Island, is made with clear broth.
What’s A Chowder?
All chowders tend to be made with potatoes, onions, and of course, clams. If you have a shellfish allergy, you can opt for Fish Chowder, which substitutes shredded fish, often cod, for the clams, and throws in corn kernels for good measure.
The word chowder has its roots in the Latin word calderia, which originally meant a hearth for warming things and later came to mean a cooking pot. The word evolved to cauldron, which in French became chaudiere, a heartbeat from chowder.
The first chowders in our culture were fish chowders, made in cauldrons in fishing villages along the coast of France and in the Cornwall region of Southwestern England. When the fishermen came to the New World, they found clams in huge supply along the northern Atlantic coast, and clam chowder was born.
Here’s a review of one of our favorite New England Clam Chowders, available by the can from Bar Harbor Foods.
How Many Types Of Soup Have You Had?
Check out our delicious Soup Glossary.