Yes, It Really is Illegal to Put Tomatoes in Clam Chowder in This New England State
First of all, EWWW if you do put tomatoes in New England clam chowder. I apologize for my brief outburst there, as this is my opinion. Save that for your Manhattan style.
I will say, the fact that it's illegal to put tomatoes in New England clam chowder seems a bit dramatic, but I'm all for keeping this funny Commonwealth of Massachusetts law on the books. It's not hurting anyone. I mean, Maine even tried the same thing in 1939.
According to News and Views JB, a century after New England Clam Chowder was around, an attempt was made by the Maine state legislature to "sanctify the purity of the recipe and literally make it illegal to put tomatoes in the chowder."
According to the New England Historical Society, "a tomato-hating politician from Rockland" drafted a bill that would criminalize tomatoes in New England clam chowder, and the punishment would be digging up clams at high tide, which I guess is impossible. Apparently, Massachusetts succeeded where Maine failed, because sure enough, the law was passed in 1939 and is still on the books, according to WCVB.
According to Eater, New England clam chowder arrived via the French, Nova Scotian, or British settlers. It was first put on the menu back in 1936 in Boston at Ye Olde Union Oyster House, which is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country.
Of course, we both know there is that dreadful tomato-based clam chowder known as Manhattan clam chowder. News and Views JB points out that tomatoes in clam chowder are a thing, even if New Englanders can claim the original, right?
Although New England Clam Chowder can be prepared “Manhattan-style” with tomatoes or a tomato base, or in a clear broth served in parts of Rhode Island, for chowder traditionalists such as myself – New England Clam Chowder does not live up to the title unless it is presented in a thick, milky base chock full of freshly shucked tender clams accented by cooked potatoes cut to varying sizes, and seasoned to utter perfection with chopped onions and ground pepper. Add a few chowder crackers and that is the unmistakable flavor of New England.
Do you like Manhattan style, or are you all about keeping tomatoes out of clam chowder, law or not?
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