Massachusetts Food Trail: Chowder
As long as there have been fishing and cooking, there has been chowder. In one form or another, over many centuries, coastal cooks have served up some variation of local seafood simmered in a thick liquid—a dish more stew than soup. On the northwest coast of France, 17th-century fishermen cooked their concoctions in large cauldrons called chaudières, and some say this is the origin of the word “chowder.” Others say the word comes from jowter, a 16th-century Cornish term for “fishmonger.”
But no matter. Chowder is ours now, an object of fierce loyalty, and a creamy clam stew—thickened with potatoes and milk, seasoned with bacon and onions and brine, and served with common crackers—holds a particular place of honor in Massachusetts. Maybe it’s because the waters off Cape Cod are prime breeding grounds for the quahogs that are its central ingredient; maybe it’s because Bay Staters take pride in panning the clear-broth chowder of neighboring Rhode Island. All that matters is that they love it enough to produce some noteworthy renditions all over the state.