Okay, nothing ‘big’ about the English freeze. It happens every year. Can leave you with a really numb feeling though. Makes you crave for something warm and smooth. Something you might have on your bed or your couch. And there is no stopping you after you have it once. Meet the English Chowder! Well, it’s not exactly English. So, it’s just Chowder. But let’s make it sound a little interesting, shall we?
We’ll give it another name:Chowdah (because you know, it’s not English anymore). It’s actually American. So what is this ‘Chowdah’? The name is derived from the Latin word caldaria, which originally meant a place for warming things, and later came to mean cooking pot. The word caldaria also gave us cauldron, and in French became Chaudière. It is also thought to come from the old English word ‘jowter’ (a fish peddler). And according to Food Network and chowhound.com (yes, there is a website dedicated to chow), chowders are thick, usually cream or milk-based soups with chunks of vegetables in it. You can also add fish or meat in it. Chowder’s roots are in the northeast Americas, western France and other English speaking nations, with the New England clam chowder being the most popular. Usually, chowder includes onion, potatoes, and cream.
Nowadays, not all chowders adhere to these guidelines. New England clam chowder is sometimes made with milk, and Manhattan clam chowder doesn’t have any milk or cream, but has a tomato base instead. As new chowders pop up all over the world, they take on many different ingredients but most people still expect a chunky, creamy soup. So whether it’s corn chowder or seafood chowder, it will not be a smooth puree and it will not be thin and wimpy.
Chowders typically have five parts: the vegetables or seafood which is the focal ingredient of the soup, ancillary ingredients which may include cream, diced onions, bacon, or herbs, the cooking liquid—usually broth or stock, a thickening agent—usually cornstarch, flour, or potatoes, and seasonings including salt and pepper. Best to let your mother decide on the quantity of each ingredient though. Chowders, like all other cooked food, can go from a mouth-watering thick and yummy soup to a chemical lab disaster before you can say, “Mummy! I am hungry!” Make it right though and you will have a hot and delicious smelling soup that would literally make you drool. Have a bowl full of that with your family around the fireplace and you will be never want to see daylight again. Take that, winter!
Winter is the time chowder sellers look to make big money. After all, who wouldn’t want a hot cup of this delicacy? Of course, winter isn’t the only time people have tried making money out of chowder. Hundreds of chefs write about this ridiculously famous and easy delicacy. Be it a tomato based tango or a classic creamy concoction, everyone stays in the pursuit of the ultimate chowder. After all, what is a kitchen worth if it cannot create the world’s best chowder? And when you have your recipe for chowder ready, you will find yourself above all mortals. Winter becomes something you regularly laugh at (while having your bowl of chowder, of course!) and ‘staying at home because it is cold outside’ is no longer a valid option (because there are chowder sellers outside!!!). Clam chowder is among the most easily available chowders.
It is any of several chowders containing clams and broth. Potatoes and onions sautéed in the drippings from salt pork or bacon is usually added to make you want to beg for it! Carrots maybe added to make it look attractive (not that it is required to make it anymore attractive) and the final garnishing is done with parsley (Okay, I want some. Now!). The primary reason for this particular chowder’s popularity is the fact that that it is served on Fridays to provide a seafood option to those who abstain from meat, which was a necessity for most part of history. Crazy laws in the Midwest Americas, like the ban of tomato in Chowder, led to other traditions like making the chowders with milk and cream. In the mid-18th century the Portuguese added the tomato to the broth and invented the ‘New York clam chowder’. Scornful New Englanders called this modified version “Manhattan-style” clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker was (and still is) an insult. There are probably a thousand variety of the clam soup alone. Couple that with their stories of origin and we will have a book written on clam chowders alone. Chowders of course, played (and is still playing) an important role in man’s life. It is a food that is for the elite and the poor people alike. Just the ingredients would slightly vary. It is a hearty meal for the tired fisher folk and is also a food of luxury to the fat royalty. And whenever you are cold and feeling down, or when you feel the English winter is getting to you, just remember, there’s chowdah for you!!