Chowder beauty in the spoon of the beholder

Thick enough for you? The chowder that launched a hundred responses. (Steve Barnes/Times Union.)

Thick enough for you? The chowder that launched a hundred responses. (Steve Barnes/Times Union.)

Steve Barnes/Times Union

Sitting on a restaurant patio one chilly evening last week, I ordered New England clam chowder. What came out, I was told, was the very last cup, and it seemed so. Thick enough that a spoon planted vertically stayed upright for 3 minutes — until I became impatient watching, not because the spoon keeled over — the chowder clearly had been reducing on the stove or in the steam table all day.

Thick chowders appeal to me, at least in part because the variation on classic New England that was the house soup at my father’s Schenectady restaurant during my childhood and teenage years, The Oxbow Inn, was plenty thick, though not spoon-standable. I made gallons of it every Saturday for the couple of years during high school that I cooked weekend lunches and prided myself on achieving a hearty thickness.

No doubt some customers found it gloppy, and that was certainly the verdict among many on Facebook when I posted the accompanying photo of my chowder from last week. In about 12 hours overnight, more than 120 comments were submitted, 85 percent of which were, to varying degrees, disapproving. All of the chefs who chimed in were opposed, as were laypeople who variously compared it to oatmeal, wallpaper paste or, as one memorable response put it, “caulk for a ’47 Chris-Craft.”

I liked the chowder. Though utterly lacking in finesse, it was rich with clam, potato and cream, and while it may have been a one- or two-note taste experience, they were, for me, an appealing couple of notes.

Results

Should chowder be thick enough to support a spoon standing straight up?

No: 85 percent
Yes: 13 percent
As long as it tastes good: 2 percent


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