There is a “war” going on in America, and I didn’t even know it. It’s a war between two kinds of clam chowder – New England Clam Chowder and Manhattan Clam Chowder. In the photo you can see New England Chowder on the left and Manhattan Chowder on the right. (New England is the northeastern part of the United States, and Manhattan is part of New York City.)
I learned about this “chowder war” in an indirect way. I saw a McDonald’s commercial about their New England coffee blend. This special blend is only sold in their New England restaurants; it’s not available in other parts of the country. The commercial highlights the lingo and inside jokes of that region.
In the commercial, there is a man holding two cups of McDonald’s New England blend coffee. He is testing a second man by asking him questions. If the second man can answer the questions correctly, it will prove that he’s a real New Englander, and he may have the coffee.
When I watched the commercial, I didn’t understand much of it, but I got the point – that people from New England have their own distinct culture. At one point, the first man asks, ”Manhattan Chowder?” and the second man answers, “Never heard of it.” From the context, I guessed that Manhattan Chowder is a dish that real New Englanders don’t like.
I am a landlocked Arkansan, and don’t know much about seafood. I didn’t know that New Englanders have passionate opinions about clam chowder! I shouldn’t be surprised. Language and food are important parts of culture. The things we eat and the way we talk identify us as members of a certain group.
So I did a little research. I learned that Manhattan Chowder is a kind of clam chowder that has tomato juice in it. I’ve never tried that; the only kind of clam chowder that I’ve ever eaten is the New England style, which is made with milk. Maybe someday I will try Manhattan Chowder and decide if I like it better than New England Chowder. Until then, I am neutral regarding the “chowder war.”
Here’s the McDonald’s commercial. Don’t expect to understand much of it, unless you are a real New Englander!
The chowder photo is from The Gracious Bowl, where they have recipes for both types of chowder.
What makes the special culture of your home area? Do the people of your area have their own lingo and their own foods?