Ask for “chowder,” and you could be repeating the first word coined by Europeans in America. Bring a spoonful to your mouth, and you could be enjoying the first European-American dish. According to some historians, the word “chowder” was coined long before the Pilgrims sighted Cape Cod. Fishermen from various parts of Europe were haunting the fertile waters of Newfoundland since John Cabot’s voyage of 1497. In their multilingual gatherings, they corrupted the French word chaudiere, the pot in which French fishermen made their stews, into the word “chowder.”
New Englanders, staunchly loyal to their milky version, dubbed it “Manhattan Clam Chowder” — to them, tomato chowders were a heresy and associating anything with New York was pejorative. As late as 1939, a bill was introduced in Maine making it a statuary offense to put tomatoes in chowder. Elsewhere, the word “chowder” is used for a variety of soups, with ingredients ranging from salmon to corn. A chowder may be defined by its chunkiness, while a bisque is typically pureed.