Clam Chowder Dates Back Much Longer Than You Might Expect

There are several versions of clam chowder up and down the North American coastline from Maine to South Carolina. Different chowder recipes are specific to different regions. For example, Manhattan clam chowder is famous for its red tomato base.At one point, the variations of chowder became such a hot-button topic that a politician in Maine tried to make it illegal to add tomatoes to New England chowder out of contempt for the Manhattan version (via New England Historical Society).

Clam chowder is a soup full of hearty ingredients such as seafood, onions, corn, celery, herbs, bacon, and potatoes, and is often thickened with cream and flour. But as you've noted by now, there are quite a few versions of this dish. A big defining aspect between chowders is their broths. According to Eater, instead of using a cream-base, some soups have a tomato-based red broth, like the Manhattan, while others use clam juice, which is just the leftover water from steamed clams. Despite the plethora of recipes and variations, there is something most clam chowders share: the quahog clam. The quahog is the most widely used shellfish found in these stews because it is more tender than its other relations (via Chefs Resources).

Clam chowder is older that the United States

Clams have been a source of food in the Americas since the indigenous tribes of the New England area began harvesting clam flats up and down the shore long before the Europeans invaded. According to The Mudflat, the Wabanaki people especially relied on clams to make a living through both their sale and consumption. Despite the fact that clams existed along the European coastline, it is believed that clam chowder was not created until the seventeenth century when French sailors, who were shipwrecked along the East Coast, threw the shellfish into a chaudière — or cauldron — which is where we get the name "chowder" (via Britannica).

Because it was an easy meal to prepare and does an excellent job warding off the winter chill, European Americans relied on the chowder to fill their bellies and give them the protein and fiber they needed to survive. Lobster Anywhere claims that clam chowder became wildly popular by 1751 when the Boston Evening Post published the very first official recipe. Since then, it has become an integral part of United States cuisine. Songs have been written about it, glorifying the soup, and even the late great American author, Herman Melville, paid homage to the dish in his most famous novel, "Moby Dick."