Say it right, Frenchie!

Tomato soup
Tomato stew
Tomato chowder

Clam soup
Clam stew
Clam chowder

Beef stew
Beef soup
Beef chowder

Think about it. We have these traditional names but they pretty much mean the same thing. The dictionary calls chowder “a thick soup in a milk or tomato base”, in which case cream of mushroom soup could easily fall into the chowder classification. The verb ‘to stew’ means “to cook by simmering or boiling slowly” so by that definition most soups are already stews. I say nuts to tradition! The rampant arbitrary renaming of soups begins now!

12 Replies to “Say it right, Frenchie!”

  1. Thanks! Like I needed something like this to fixate on.
    Soup is from the old English word, “sop”, which refered to bread with, well, soup poured over it.
    Chowder and stew come from the French (stew comes from “estuve” which refers to a steam house, apparently). Funny enough, both words, now common English words, are called just “potage” in modern French.

    So really, the French are cunningly poised to add ANOTHER redundant word into the English language (“pot noodle” anyone?)

    That said I think all three words, in spite of their exact definitions, have come to refer to specific, slightly different things.

    Screw this, I’m going to sleep!

  2. As a fan of mushy foods, I have to agree with Chris — 3 words, slightly different meanings.
    I offer: stew and chowder tend to have a thicker broth and chunkier goodies than soup.
    To whit: I have never heard of a cream-based tomato concoction referred to as “chowder” – too uniform in consistency not to be called ‘soup’.

  3. But where does one draw the line? WHERE I ask? When does a soup become a stew? Don’t make me rely on subjective opinion – I want solid measures! And, I’ve gotta tell ya, stick with me and you most certainly will hear of a cream-based tomato concoction referred to as chowder. Or, better yet, stouder.

  4. sometimes clam chowder has a thick tomato base. i also agree with chris. they’re usually a bit different from each other… unlike, say curry… there is so much meaning in that word!

  5. according to this article i found,

    here’s a more definitive list of soups, a soup glossary if you will…

    for those of you unable to bring yourself to look, here is the definitions

    Chowder: a thick, chunky seafood or other rich soup containing chunks of food.
    Soup: basically any combination of vegetables, fruit, meat, and/or fish cooked in a liquid.
    Stew: a dish containing meat, vegetables and a thick soup-like broth made from a combination of the stewing liquid and the natural juices of the food being stewed.

    going by the article, stew and chowder can be considered soup BUT a stew cannot be considered a chowder and vice versa. the difference between chowder and stew is in the preparation methods mainly. having made both, i would back that up.

  6. yet another definition of the difference between soup and stew

    Simple Solution
    What’s the difference between soup and stew? In short, stews have a trifle less water and a bit more attitude.

    While even a clear broth can pass muster as soup, stews rely more on complexity—not in their preparation, but in the synergy between their seasonings and ingredients. Like the best soups, stews thrive on a good melding of ingredients, especially in offbeat combinations. And because stews rely less on broth and more on ingredients for character, making vegetarian stews that dazzle the taste buds is actually less challenging to accomplish than with meatless soups.

  7. one last say on the soup/stew/chowder debate–_February_2004/

    February 28
    My wife and I have been asking this question for years: What are the differences between chowder, soup, and stew? Be careful; there are lots of exceptions to most of the more common descriptions! This question has made for some interesting discussions. I don’t know if we’ve heard the definitive answer yet…
    Jay in Hampton

    EDITOR’S REPLY: Chowder has milk or cream. Soup has water and is thinner than stew, which you can eat with a fork. Everyone who things otherwise is full of chowda, or doesn’t speak Yankee. So much for the light weight questions, now as Kerry and Bush say – Bring it on!

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