What color is your chowder?

I noted in a recent restaurant review that my favorite type of chowder is Rhode Island, or the clear-broth variety. Simple but delicious, in my opinion.

Last weekend, we found ourselves in a restaurant in Narragansett, planning on grabbing a cocktail and some appetizers. The soup of the day was Manhattan clam chowder, a version I had always scoffed at. I figured James Beard had it right when he said it "resembles a vegetable soup that accidentally had some clams dumped into it."

According to some accounts, Manhattan chowder had its roots in Rhode Island.

"The addition of tomatoes in place of milk was initially the work of Portuguese immigrants in Rhode Island, as tomato-based stews were already a traditional part of Portuguese cuisine. 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," according to the Wikipedia page on chowder.

So while New Englanders argued over creamy vs. clear, red was not even an option.

I had shied away from it partly because of stories from my mother on how she had made it at my father's request. The key ingredient: a can of Campbell's tomato soup.

But for some reason I decided to give it a go. And, surprise, I liked it. Clams, potatoes, celery and onion were swimming in a broth that was thick with tomatoes and spices. I found this recipe online from Emeril Lagasse that seems very close to what I had. And that shouldn't be a surprise since he was born in Massachusetts the son of a Portuguese mother.

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