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A stew-like soup, popular along the east coast of the U.S.A, usually containing clams or other shellfish. There are regional variations - New England chowder is made from clams, salt pork or bacon and milk; Manhattan chowder employs water instead of milk, but adds tomatoes. Feelings of loyalty to the New England version were so strong at one stage that the Maine legislature once considered a bill that would have outlawed the mixing of clams and tomatoes in eateries open to the public.
The name first appeared in the 1730's, and is probably derived from the French "chaudron", a big pot in which fishermen would stew whatever they hadn"t sold for their supper.