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"A clam for supper? a cold clam; is that what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?
December 4, 2012 5:40 AM   Subscribe

"New Englanders learn quickly to dismiss the chowder where tomato ruins its gorgeous broth, where references to New York tarnish its name...However, few know how such distinctions came about in the first place, what processes were involved that resulted in one person's disgust of another's beloved creation, and why, to this day, do we stand by such convictions?" The New England Chowder Compendium, from the McIntosh Cookery Collection at the UMass Amherst library.

Link via Elsa - thank you!
posted by Miko (92 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
New Englanders learn quickly to dismiss the chowder where tomato ruins its gorgeous broth...

Now hold on one minute... Massachusetts doesn't mean New England, and when it comes to seafood, they're all savages up there. They serve calamari with tartar sauce, I've seen it. They're in no position to dismiss anything.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:49 AM on December 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


John Thorne writes about chowder...extensively in one of his books, Serious Pig.

As a Midwesterner now living in Rhode island, I have access both to objectivity and to all forms of chowder -- and I am here to tell you that the red stuff is nasty.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:51 AM on December 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


(Also, a quirky link with an odd layout... but since it's about chowder, and has some neat stuff, I'll soldier through it. Thanks!)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:51 AM on December 4, 2012


The whole chapter of Moby Dick on Chowder, which just makes me hungry.

Plus Fred Quimby.
posted by chavenet at 5:53 AM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have had two Ohio restaurants' very poor excuses for New England clam chowder recently (eventually I'll learn but I'm so damn homesick) and I would like to send them these websites. Chowder requires more than just chicken broth. And yet, chowder is not an excuse to serve a bowl of mashed potatoes with some clams and carrots suspended within. I'm sure they would be happy to learn proper chowder techniques.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:55 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Eat bugs and worms out of the ocean is gross enough, but forming it into a slurry is beyond the pale.
posted by DU at 5:58 AM on December 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


Mmmmm.... ocean worm slurry.
posted by bondcliff at 6:12 AM on December 4, 2012 [28 favorites]


Eat bugs and worms out of the ocean is gross enough, but forming it into a slurry is beyond the pale.

As a seafood-averse New Englander (well, Massachusetts native anyway), I couldn't agree more. Luckily most seafood restaurants/windows also serve up delicious cheeseburgers and tasty onion rings.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:14 AM on December 4, 2012


Doorman: "What's the password?"
Ace: "New England Clam Chowder."
Doorman: "Red or white?"
Ace: "I always forget this part..."
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:16 AM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


which just makes me hungry

The family guy chowder sketch will clear that right up.
posted by ryanrs at 6:21 AM on December 4, 2012


Once we get beyond the tomatoes/no tomatoes thing, we can start worrying about whether ther is an r at the end of the word.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:25 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Say "chowdah"!
posted by Egg Shen at 6:26 AM on December 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


There is no R at the end of tomatoes.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:30 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is no R at the end of tomatoes.

That'll learn 'em to smash my termater.
posted by bondcliff at 6:31 AM on December 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


I try to picture the Peanut Butter Cup style accident that led to the creation of chowder:

O: "Caleb, you got your small chunks of flesh harvested the dirty shoreline and removed from shells with a disproportionate level of effort in relation to the fillingness of said flesh chunks in my large vats of salted cream and butter!"

C: "No, Obediah, you got your large vats of salted cream and butter mixed on my small chunks of flesh harvested the dirty shoreline and removed from shells with a disproportionate level of effort in relation to the fillingness of said flesh chunks!"

O+C: "And together, they taste like we've been scaled from the cream and are cold New England hearts are heave with the knowledge that our wounds will likely grow infected from the unsanitary conditions of the clam chunks!"

C, aside: "I'm moving to New York City before I succumb to infection!"

Later

A: "Come-a and buy-a Anthony's Extremely Thin-a Tomato Sauce! No good for pasta! Come-a and buy-a Anthony's Extremely Thin-a Tomato Sauce!"

C: "Watch out, you!"

CRASH

A: "Whatsa matter witha you!? You got your small chunks of flesh harvested the dirty shoreline and removed from shells with a disproportionate level of effort in relation to the fillingness of said flesh chunks in my boiling hot extremely thin-a tomato sauce!"

C: "Looks like I did it again!"

Horn plays, studio audience claps out of fear of reprisals.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:38 AM on December 4, 2012 [26 favorites]


Manhattan Clam Chowder is far and away the better of the two. Anyone who says otherwise has the taste buds of book.
posted by oddman at 6:39 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Manhattan Clam Chowder is far and away the better of the two. Anyone who says otherwise has the taste buds of book."

*cough*
Three, sir or madam. At the least.

That said, does Delaware Clam Chowder really exist?
posted by absquatulate at 6:43 AM on December 4, 2012


This is a Chicago thick crust vs. New York thin crust pizza thread all over again. Can we just agree that we're talking about two totally different things that just happen to have the same name and similar ingredients and perhaps they're both delicious?

New England style is more delicious though. I mean, obviously. Duh.
posted by bondcliff at 6:43 AM on December 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


De gustibus non est disputandum.

(or . . . your favorite chowda sucks.)
posted by Seamus at 6:52 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


* walks in, unfolds chair and sits, unfolds laptop and immediately bookmarks site * I'm gonna want to camp out in here a while.

New Englanders learn quickly to dismiss the chowder where tomato ruins its gorgeous broth, where references to New York tarnish its name...

Okay, here's the thing. The origin of the word "chowder" referred to a milk or cream-based soup. A tomato-based soup is a perfectly fine thing, but it is not a chowder. ....I don't care what Wikipedia has to say about it, they're just plain wrong.

...My grandparents lived near the restaurant that won a popular-vote chowder cookoff for Best Clam Chowder In New England" in 1979. (They've shifted to catering instead.) Made from scratch, fresh cream, not too thick, not too many potatoes, loaded with clams, and fresh herbs - it was delicious, and it's the gold standard as far as I'm concerned.

One of the only things I regret about living in New York is that I have always had a hell of a time finding seafood that's fresh enough. It's not not fresh, mind, but I'm used to seafood and chowder that's been made of something that was pulled out of the water less than a day ago. The closest I've come is if I get lucky and get to the fish monger in the farmer's market in time. And one day I lucked out - I had decided that for a weekend I was going to try to make real, from-scratch from beginning-to-end, clam chowder, and got to the market while they still had clams. I needed about 24 clams, though, which comes to four pounds. "You sure you want that many?" the clerk asked skeptically. I nodded. He shrugged, got a huge sack and started filling it. A couple people stopped to watch. "What ARE you making?" one woman asked me.

"Chowder."

"Huh."

They handed me the sack and I left with it slung over my shoulder. I think I ended up synthesizing a few recipes to come up with my own formula - as close to Harriet's as I could remember it. And based on that - yes, making it from scratch with fresh clams, rather than canned clams, is TOTALLY worth it. Plus the silent looks of awe as you walk through a crowd with a whole sack of clams flung over your shoulder makes you feel like a culinary badass.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on December 4, 2012 [14 favorites]


New England clam chowder is nice for when I want to shit my lactose intolerant guts out and then watch my ankles and toes swell for a few days. Manhattan clam chowder is okay, but clams really deserve breading and frying, and red chowder deserves blue crab meat and better spices and is called Maryland crab soup.

That's just my tastes, though. Mileage varies, and making rules for what other people should enjoy is fuckin' dumb, hon.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:54 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a restaurant in Boston which has this on its menu:

New England Clam Chowder.............................$3.95
Manhattan Clam Chowder.............drive south on I-95

And as far as I'm concerned, the people south on 95 can have as much of it as they want.
posted by Spatch at 6:55 AM on December 4, 2012 [21 favorites]


I was about to post about the same thing as bondcliff. Both can be be great if done well. I'll also add that if the clams are top-notch, my favorite chowder is Hatteras style. No cream or tomatoes to hide any of the clam flavor.
posted by gimli at 6:56 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suggest you try the chowder at the No-Name Restaurant on Fish Pier in Boston. It's fish, not clam, but it is quite delicious all the same. Damn good chowder - and hot!
posted by the painkiller at 6:59 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Either version of hot snot soup is unacceptable to me.
posted by elizardbits at 7:01 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Four words: Ozark Mountain Clam Chowder

You decide where the quotation marks should go.
posted by sourwookie at 7:02 AM on December 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


It's fish, not clam, but it is quite delicious all the same. Damn good chowder - and hot!

I just looked this up. I did not realize fish chowder came in the cream variety. I've only had it in California and I've only had it at one place, and it is tomato based, and comes with what I assume to be an authentic pairing of oyster crackers and Sriracha sauce.

Oh yeah, and evidently San Francisco's contribution to clam chowder is putting it in a sourdough bowl. I thought that was a standard. I'll have to try the New England if I'm ever again on the East Coast.
posted by FJT at 7:04 AM on December 4, 2012


The origin of the word "chowder" referred to a milk or cream-based soup

Can you give a citation? I am pretty sure the origin of the term is in uncertain, but have never seen it as a word that requires dairy. It's almost certain that the earliest New England chowders had no milk or cream - dairy was hard to come by in the first place, and when it became more common, almost always turned to butter in the second place.

By the way, the stuff in the link is pretty cool.
posted by Miko at 7:05 AM on December 4, 2012


I like both! So I win.
posted by zsazsa at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2012


Manhattan Clam Chowder is far and away the better of the two. Anyone who says otherwise has the taste buds of book.

Go ahead and eat your poisonous tomatoes, fool.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I remembered seeing Alton Brown cover the whole "New England vs. Manhattan" chowder rivalry in one of his episodes, Send In The Clams. Just found the transcript: according to Alton, it was Portuguese immigrants to Rhode Island who swapped out the milk for tomatoes in chowder; and at the time, claiming something was from New York was the favorite way New Englanders trash-talked something, so the locals dubbed it "Manhattan clam chowder".

And yes, the stuff in the link is fantastic - I'm making lots of notes for further tinkering with my own recipe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:13 AM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and Miko: I admit that the depth of my certainty about "chowder = cream" is probably weighted by regional bias and Wanting To Believe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2012


In the innocent days of my youth, the "New England" part of New England Clam Chowder was superfluous - since I didn't know there was any other kind.

So I must have been in an restaurant that served only the Other Kind when I ordered "clam chowder" and was brought a bowl of something red, odd-smelling, and terribly wrong.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:15 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sitting this one out. I'm an oyster stew man myself...
posted by jim in austin at 7:27 AM on December 4, 2012


claiming something was from New York was the favorite way New Englanders trash-talked something

"was?!"

sorry, couldn't resist!

I am totally neutral on the subject, personally: I have New England family roots (though they're in Rhode Island, which adds to the complexity), but grew up in NJ where tomato rules, but I hate clams. So I haven't had to pick a favorite.

I worked at a wonderful seafood restaurant in extreme Eastern coastal CT years ago; they basically made a Rhode Island style chowder as the default, but if you wanted "New England" style, we'd just stir in a warmed monkey bowl of cream.
posted by Miko at 7:28 AM on December 4, 2012


I'll also add that if the clams are top-notch, my favorite chowder is Hatteras style. No cream or tomatoes to hide any of the clam flavor.

I can be on the Outer Banks eating Hatteras clam chowder in less than an hour, but I am not a fan. New England clam chowder is the one true champion. It's all personal taste. I LOVE clam chowder and eat it quite often; my wife calls clam chowder "pencil-eraser and snot soup".
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:32 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am totally neutral on the subject, personally: I have New England family roots (though they're in Rhode Island, which adds to the complexity), but grew up in NJ where tomato rules....

I'm even more culinarily chaotic - I grew up in Connecticut, but we made tons of visits to my grandparents on Cape Cod and my parents and brother have all moved there - and instead I live in New York.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:34 AM on December 4, 2012


Rhode Island Clam Chowder is the best -- no milk, no tomatoes, just clam broth, quahogs, salt pork and potatoes. Light and clammy.
posted by splat at 7:36 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not to throw an oyster in the pot, but there are two distinct New England Clam Chowders. The one we all know and love as described; creamy, and thick. Then there's the Rhode Island Clam Chowder which is brothy, light with just enough cream or milk to make the broth cloudy. Huh, them Rhodies are a strange lot...but they also drink coffee-milk.

damn you splat.
posted by Gungho at 7:40 AM on December 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Bear in mind, Rhode Island style chowder is its own thing, neither Manhattan nor New England. As is red chowder.

(Show ME not preview before post.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2012


Gungho, at least RI Clam Chowder is undeniably a food. All my tests indicate that coffee-milk is most likely a cleaner of some sort, although it leaves surfaces dingier (and smelling faintly of chemicals). I can think of no other practical use for the stuff. Herbicide, maybe.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:44 AM on December 4, 2012


I went to college in Rhode Island and they had coffee milk in the cafeteria. Yum. I make sure I bring home some Autocrat Coffee Milk Syrup when I go back. I am surprised there has not been a Dells vs. New England frozen lemonade thread. Maybe in the summer.
posted by shothotbot at 7:53 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now is where we start arguing about Eclipse vs. Autocrat coffee syrup.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:53 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


chavenet: "The whole chapter of Moby Dick on Chowder, which just makes me hungry."

Oh yeah, I remember that. By the end of the chapter I was starving.
posted by Splunge at 7:54 AM on December 4, 2012


I love all types of clam chowder so won't claim a favourite. But the one thing that drives me crazy in Ontario is that you can't get oyster crackers here to save your life, not even at the fishmongers.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:59 AM on December 4, 2012


Slightly off-topic, but this reminds me of a PRISCILLA D. WEBSTER vs. BLUE SHIP TEA ROOM, INC., famous legal case involving New England fish chowder, in which a lady sues a restaurant because the chowder has a bone.

Totally worth a read for the amount of effort the court expended to brush up on the history of chowder, and for stuff like the defendant's comments "[f]ish chowder, as it is served and enjoyed by New Englanders, is a hearty dish, originally designed to satisfy the appetites of our seamen and fishermen" and "[t]his court knows well that we are not talking of some insipid broth as is customarily served to convalescents."

tldr - the court decides "In any event, we consider that the joys of life in New England include the ready availability of fresh fish chowder. We should be prepared to cope with the hazards of fish bones, the occasional presence of which in chowders is, it seems to us, to be anticipated, and which, in the light of a hallowed tradition, do not impair their fitness or merchantability. "
posted by freecellwizard at 8:01 AM on December 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


I best remember a delicious bowl of New England clam chowder at the now-since-closed Potbelly Stove Cafe on Christopher Street that I devoured after a day of moving into my first apartment. But it was probably made more enticing by the fact that I had been carrying boxes down long hallways for 18 hours.

Are there are preferred spots in NYC for chowdah?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:15 AM on December 4, 2012


I married into a family of Rhode Islanders and have still never seen any of them actually drink coffee milk. I'd like to think it's just a joke.

That said, some of them are still kind of bitter about coffee milk beating Del's in the official state beverage competition, so maybe they're just the wrong sort of Rhode Islanders for coffee milk drinking.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:16 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, Thorne's fifty-page essay "Down East Chowder" in the book Serious Pig -- after a chapter entitled "The Abhored Tomato" -- writes that "The deciding factor of whether a chowder belongs in a Down East kitchen is the presence of salt pork, not the absence of tomato."

See http://books.google.com/books?id=T7KsWn7mxecC&lpg=PA197&vq=chowder&pg=PA151 and following. The essay has three-deep footnotes in places, and I challenge any Manhattanite or even Rhode Islander to top his sources. And so again I say, the tomato stuff is nasty, and the broth-y Rhode Island chowder is too thin.

If winter would just hurry up and get here, I want to stink my family out of the house by making up a pot of good, creamy clam chowder. We get two weeks off at Christmas, and I am already planning the fun!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:18 AM on December 4, 2012


I married into a family of Rhode Islanders and have still never seen any of them actually drink coffee milk.

I did the same, and mine don't like it, either. Admittedly, the stuff is nasty. But then most of them don't drink coffee at all, which I also view with alarm.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:21 AM on December 4, 2012


Rhode Island Margarita: Del's frozen Lemonade and tequila to taste.
posted by Gungho at 8:24 AM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


That Minorcan clam chowder on the wiki page sounds pretty damn good.
posted by sfts2 at 8:25 AM on December 4, 2012


I've never done Del's and tequila, but I've had watermelon Mr. Lemon and rum and it was really, really good. Not for frozen lemonade purists, obviously.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:27 AM on December 4, 2012


Computech: a playwright I used to know who was born in Wellfleet swears by Mary's Fish Camp for proper chowder in New York.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:55 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll be making this recipe pretty soon —
Barbara's Stew

And posting the result here:
Daily Aliment
posted by jinkoh at 8:57 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is this coffee milk of which you speak? A true Rhode Islander drinks cabinets.
posted by usonian at 9:02 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tony's clam chowder from Cedar Key, Fl has won the annual chowder cook-off in Newport R.I. Three years in a row, no longer allowed to compete.
posted by cedar key at 9:09 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Duh, he got the recipe from one of the 100% of Rhode Islanders over age sixty who are required to spend 50.1% of the year in Florida to dodge Rhodey's already-low income taxes.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:39 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


A tomato-based soup is a perfectly fine thing, but it is not a chowder.

Yep. And, also, Boston Cream Pie is not a pie, but really a cake.
posted by ericb at 9:44 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best Clam Chowder In Boston.

BTW -- among clam chowder purchased at a supermarket, I am partial to Legal Seafood's available in a plastic container at the refrigerated food aisle.
posted by ericb at 9:49 AM on December 4, 2012


Thanks, Empress! I went to Mary's Fish Camp years ago with the in-laws. Time for a return visit.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 10:16 AM on December 4, 2012


Pearl's is better - less farmed fish but everything else is the exact same recipe. Mary used to work for Rebecca (Pearl)
posted by JPD at 10:51 AM on December 4, 2012


Okay, I lived in NYC for most of my adult life, and I adore New England Clam Chowder, and I have never, ever, even once come across any place anywhere that serves Manhattan Clam Chowder. Where the hell are you people even finding it?
posted by Navelgazer at 11:00 AM on December 4, 2012


I dunno, if I'm going to eat disease-ridden caught-off-the-bottom-of-a-river-or-lake seafood in a slurry format I tend to lean towards a Pee Dee Catfish Stew.

*sigh* It's this time of year I miss my old cast iron cauldron the most. You just can't make a good pot of hash, stew or a low country boil without it...
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:09 AM on December 4, 2012


Empress Callipgyos, I worked at Harriet's one summer in the early 80s! I served so many cups of chowder that my clothes would reek of it after my shifts.

The sad thing is, I grew up in Southeastern MA, but I can't abide clams. My entire family likes them and I remember them getting me to try them and I always ended up getting sick. I doubt that i am allergic to them as I can tolerate clam cakes and like most other shellfish. I also detest milk and the thought of combining any seafood, especially clams, with cream still turns my stomach. At one point my aversion to clam chowder was so strong that I couldn't sit at the same table as someone eating it. I don't remember how I got through my first shifts at Harriet's; I guess I just got desensitized.
posted by kaybdc at 11:26 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Oyster Bar at GCT serves it "New England" style.

If they are wrong, then humanity is good and truly lost.

(but order the oyster pan roast instead)
posted by digitalprimate at 11:45 AM on December 4, 2012


ALLEN'S COFFEE BRANDY AND CREAM

GRAPENUTS FROZEN IN CREAM

CLAMS IN CREAM

ALL CREAM ALL THE TIME ALL CREAM ALL THE TIME
posted by Greg Nog at 11:46 AM on December 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


ALLEN'S COFFEE BRANDY AND CREAM

GRAPENUTS FROZEN IN CREAM

CLAMS IN CREAM

ALL CREAM ALL THE TIME ALL CREAM ALL THE TIME


I would like to attend the All Cream All The Time dinner.
posted by Elsa at 11:51 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the link, Elsa - I put a (via) in the extended field, but you deserve credit for finding this link!
posted by Miko at 11:59 AM on December 4, 2012


Miko, that shout-out was very sweet but totally unnecessary. For the record, I found the link via Simply Recipes. Mmm, chowder.
posted by Elsa at 12:03 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I worked at Harriet's one summer in the early 80s!

*eyes gleam*

Okay - I know you probably can't give away the whole recipe, but - there's tarragon in it, right?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on December 4, 2012


Empress Callipygos,

I would happily give you the recipe if I knew it, but at time I wasn't interested in cooking and I definitely not interested in calm chowder so I didn't pay attention. I don't recall ever being told what was in it and I'm not sure if the chef/owner would have told me if I'd asked. She could be a bit ornery and most of the people who worked there had been awhile and I didn't really fit in.

That being said, I bet tarragon is a good guess. I do remember that it had a lot of green herbs floating on the top. I seem to recall dill maybe?
posted by kaybdc at 12:49 PM on December 4, 2012


I was kidding a bit; sorry that wasn't clear.

I think my cousin also worked there for a spell as well - probably after you had moved on, however. It strikes me that Harriets' was probably a common summer job for people in Marion (there ain't much else there).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on December 4, 2012


No problem. I often take things too literally. And yeah, there weren't a ton of work options in Marion. Harriet's was an upgrade for me. The previous summer I was a cafeteria worker at Tabor and a waitress at Alice's Country Kitchen in the back of the Rochester General Store. Exciting times.
posted by kaybdc at 1:13 PM on December 4, 2012


A true Rhode Islander drinks cabinets.

I don't think I've heard of those before...but I like what I hear!
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:37 PM on December 4, 2012


A true Rhode Islander drinks cabinets.

Rhode Island is basically the world's smallest exercise in No True Scotsman. My wife will tell you she loves Rhode Island, but will disavow Newport, Warwick, Barrington, North Providence, most of Pawtucket, and all parts of Cranston other than that restaurant in the VFW Hall.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:51 PM on December 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


In her defense, Mike's Kitchen in the VFW hall serves a mean polenta.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:23 PM on December 4, 2012


Rhode Island is basically the world's smallest exercise in No True Scotsman.

Wow, SO true, but I never thought of it like that before. This is 100% accurate.

Here's an example: every town lacks street signs, and people from many towns cannot really navigate other places. Not because of the signs, mind you, but because why go there?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:30 PM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Coffee milk is like chocolate syrup but it's coffee syrup in your milk. Cabinets are ice cream, milk and syrup -- thick. Others may call them milkshakes, but milkshakes in Rhode Island lack ice cream. We will not drive more than 10 minutes to anything, so being "between New York and Boston" is lost on us. Many have never been to Woonsocket, in the northern part of R.I. We rarely leave the state (if we do after college, many come back) except for winter vacations in Fla. or the Caribbean. It's easy to live here -- great food, the ocean, seasons.
posted by splat at 12:48 AM on December 5, 2012


Oh, no question, the food at The Post is phenomenal, according to that ancient Rhode Island custom that the more sure you are that the people at the next table are in the Mob, the better the food will be.

Here's an example: every town lacks street signs, and people from many towns cannot really navigate other places. Not because of the signs, mind you, but because why go there?

I got married in Providence. I'm from North Carolina and my best man was from Ohio. Naturally, the task of driving from my in-law's house on the East Side to Grace Church downtown was left to the two of us and not any one of the numerous people in the wedding who had lived in Providence their whole lives and attended Grace Church for a decade. It's not a long drive, just under three miles, so we printed out some Google directions and figured it would be fine. Of couse, Google directions only work if you know the name of the street you're on.

Looking at the map now, I still can't pinpoint the place where we abandoned our planned route and started heading to Cranston. Thankfully, I managed to realize that we had gotten off track before we got out of downtown Providence. My best man called my father-in-law-to-be and explained that we were lost and when asked where we were said "I have no idea; I can see the Mall." This was not especially helpful, but I managed to drive circles around the mall until we found another landmark he could shout out that could be used to navigate us to the church.

And technically, I wasn't late, no matter what my wife says.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:36 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


*snerk* My family lives in Cape Cod, and I don't have a car; so I always take the train into Providence and my parents come pick me up and drive me the rest of the way.

We have been doing this for ten years, and every single time Dad gets lost on the way from the train station back to I-95 North.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:27 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


My wife grew up in the northern half of Rhode Island. The first time we decided to go to Newport, she had to ask for directions. Wha...? It's scarcely an hour away!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:32 AM on December 5, 2012


...every single time Dad gets lost on the way from the train station back to I-95 North.

Wait, how? They are literally yards apart: the train platforms are in fact under the highway deck!!!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:33 AM on December 5, 2012


Wait, how? They are literally yards apart: the train platforms are in fact under the highway deck!!!

Yeah, but that's as the crow flies. Trying to drive FROM the train station TO the highway deck gets you shunted into a weird maze of one-way streets.

...Although my father does have a stubborn habit of abandoning specifically-written directions if they don't "look right".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


...a weird maze of one-way streets

A.k.a. all of Rhode Island. You also forgot the "maddeningly sign-less" part. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 7:10 AM on December 5, 2012


Have him pick you up in front of the State House next time - there's a good size sidewalk and everyone idles on the street to load and offload people for the station, the cops won't give any hassle. Then it's a left before the mall/convention center, and a right after it, and the highway on-ramps are right there.

I took the train into Boston for four years when I was living in Providence. I'm breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about trying to give someone directions on how to get to the highway from the "official" loading and unloading area. Plus, you're "sharing" the road with over-aggressive cabbies.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:52 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


In Rhode Island (and most of SE Mass, I'd gather), a drive beyond 30 minutes is a day trip: you pack sandwiches, gas up the car, call when you get there, and call when you leave. I swear it's the weirdest mentality which I chalk up to the geography (there is no good way to get anywhere.) As for the lack of street signs, if you didn't know where you were going, that was YOUR problem. The locals knew perfectly well where everything was. See: Little Compton and New York summer visitors. I worked in a sandwich shop right near the LC border, and good heavens, the number of times 17 year old me had to listen to people bitch about the lack of signs.

I was weaned on coffee milk *and* Dell's. Grapenuts absolutely belong in ice cream I've never set foot in nearly any town on the west bay: the closest I came was a trip to URI to visit their grad program, to which I travelled from Upstate NY. I've *heard* of Cranston, but I've never been there. Why bother, indeed!? When I lived in RI think I went to Alton Jones for a camp, once. That was an epic trip in 8th grade, it was on the other side of the state, for Pete's sake.

" We have been doing this for ten years, and every single time Dad gets lost on the way from the train station back to I-95 North."
EmpressCallipygos: with all the construction around there, I'm not surprised at all that he would get lost.

ANYWAY, all that to say that there is some weird RI opinions, for sure, but it's the kind of thing that only other RIers can call each other on it; they'll defend RI to anybody from outside the state.
posted by absquatulate at 1:00 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I tend to think RI is a real sleeper - an incredibly beautiful state, a really nice place to spend time, especially in summer, you can still buy a house for not-outrageously-crazy amounts of money, it doesn't snow and freeze as badly as the rest of NE but is not CT - it amazes me that it remains relatively un-talked-about outside the state's own residents.
posted by Miko at 1:24 PM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Shaddup, Miko, or the place will be full of New Yorkers and Massholes!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:13 PM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Don't worry, they'l get lost and end up in CT.
posted by Miko at 5:08 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


...and we can stash their abandoned cars in No-School Foster/Glocester -- never to be seen again!
posted by wenestvedt at 5:26 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep. And, also, Boston Cream Pie is not a pie, but really a cake.

Ooh ... America's Test Kitchen just reposted this today on their Facebook feed: Secrets to Boston Cream Pie -- "Is it a pie? Is it a cake? Does it really matter when it’s this good?"
posted by ericb at 2:37 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


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