Originally posted by lleechef
Don't like that milky stuff they serve in Maine. Or the red stuff they serve in NY.
The red stuff's roots are in coastal Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut (and those are still the best places to find it), due to the area's heavy Portuguese influence. (It seems that few people outside of New England know about the influence of Portuguese cooking in the fishing towns, something that I consider one of the area's best-kept secrets.) According to the histories I've seen, xenophobic Yanks took to calling it Manhattan clam chowder as a double swipe at both the soup and the city, even though the soup was unknown in New York at the time. This eventually led to what's served in the rest of the country as Manhattan clam chowder -- what Michael Hoffman rightly called vegetable soup with clams -- which is a soup that has little in common with the Portuguese-style tomato-based chowder New Englanders first called Manhattan-style. If that makes any sense.
In my experience, the closer you get to the actual coastline, the milkier the chowder, and that's true not only in Maine but in southern New England as well. My wife's family are lifelong New Englanders, and according to them, the trend towards chowder that you can stand a spoon upright in -- a style that personally, I find rather gross, not least because, as has been noted, you can't actually taste any clams in it -- is very recent, as in the last couple of decades, and seems to be spurred primarily by tourists who prefer the thickness.
One day last summer, I was walking through Quincy Marketplace, and I passed by someone who had a little plastic bowl of chowder on their lunch tray. You know how when you scoop mashed potatoes with a disher, they retain that round, ice cream-scoop shape? This chowder still had the shape of the ladle formed on top of the bowl!