At Bosco’s Chowder Bucket, we celebrate all things clam chowder and one thing people always want to know is, “Where did clam chowder originate?”
There’s so many different varieties of clam chowder out there and some of them are a lot older than you think! But according to various food historians, the iconic New England clam chowder I love eating on the bus certainly originated in its namesake of New England. The entire region was down with the chowder but Boston is where it particularly took off. In fact, Ye Olde Union Oyster House in Boston has been serving it since the 1830s and you can still get an authentic chowder bucket of your own there today!
Clam chowder even came to be known as “Boston chowder” if it was based on old school traditionalist recipes that go heavy on the potatoes, onions, and milk with some kind of salt pork thrown in. But while it didn’t really take off until the 19th century, clam chowder first came to the states by way of settlers from France, Nova Scotia, and Britain. The Brittany (Bretagne) region of France is postulated by many to be the official birthplace of clam chowder: do you remember that iconic gag from The Simpsons where one of the Quimbys goes ballistic over the pronunciation of “chowder”?
There’s actually some Fridge Brilliance to this funny classic Simpsons segment! Breton fishermen just cooked up whatever they happened to have handy which was often potatoes, onions, milk, and maybe a little bacon or pork with the fresh batch of clams they just caught. It was all thrown into a cauldron, or chaudière which was then transmuted into “chowder” by English speakers when the Bretons settled in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New England. So the waiter was actually right in that chowder was initially pronounced more like chaudère until English speakers decided to just pronounce it “CHOWDA!”
In short, if you wanted to know where did clam chowder originate, New England by way of the Bretagne region in France before it came to Washington Heights on the M5 bus 2-3 centuries later.