Q. I served corn chowder recently, only to have a diner at the table insist that a chowder made with corn was actually a cream soup, not real chowder. What is the difference? — K.G.
A. We won’t delve too far into ancient history here, but chowder originated in France, according to a number of authorities we checked. It likely was brought to Nova Scotia by French settlers and later introduced to New England, say the authors of “On Cooking.” These chowders originated as hearty fish stews containing usually diced potatoes and milk or cream. However, one famous “chowder” eventually made its way out of Manhattan, and was made with tomatoes.
As always, once a culinary item hits the shores of the United States, we put our own stamp on it, so we expect variations. However one thing these experts say is that a cream soup, such as cream of asparagus, is puréed for smoothness, and sometimes strained, while creamy chowder contains chunks of main ingredients and is not puréed.
So, that might have been our argument to counter the diner who claimed corn chowder wasn’t “real” chowder. Or, to keep peace at the table, as we suspect you did, we’d probably just say in our blandest tone, “You could be right.”