The word chowder comes from the Latin word calderia, which means cook pot. Originally, ingredients were layered in a cauldron and cooked down into a stew. Fish stews are the predecessors of clam chowders. Early settlers made the dish using any and every available vegetable and protein. Before the advent of cookbooks, American magazines and newspapers printed recipes as well known dietary staples. In 1751, the Boston Evening Post printed what has become known as the oldest recipe for fish chowder. Notably absent from modern recipes are salt pork and ship biscuit, which were included in many early recipes as primary ingredients. Today, almost every country that is bordered by water has a regional variation of the dish.
Essentially, chowder is a vegetable or seafood stew with a base that is thickened with cream or milk. They can be served alone or as a side dish and are fantastic for warming up on a cold day when served with fresh baked biscuits. There are many varieties of the dish, the most common being New England clam. This popular stew makes a hearty meal and consists of chopped clams, potatoes and other vegetables in a combined milk and cream base. Other variations include Manhattan, which substitutes a tomato base and doesn’t include potatoes.