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Dipping into the history of chowder, and a recipe as well


Technically, a soup is any combination of meat, fish, or vegetables in a broth. A chowder is a thick soup that usually contains seafood and potatoes as its primary ingredients (clam chowder is the most common), though the term is often used more loosely in describing any rich, chunky soup. The word ``chowder" is derived from the French ``chaudiere, " the term for a caldron that fishermen traditionally used to make stews from the day's catch.

Few dishes are more comforting than a bowl of classic New England clam chowder. Purists argue about precisely how the soup should be prepared -- some insist on salt pork instead of bacon, others want no seasonings but salt and pepper. The following recipe takes some liberties with flavorings, but I think you'll find the result to be hearty and delicious.


(Serves 6 to 8)

6 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 celery stalks, strings removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 cup very small pearl onions, peeled

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups unsalted clam juice

4 small Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

5 large sprigs fresh thyme

8 pounds quahog clams, shucked, liquid reserved , and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (2 pounds shucked clams)

1 1/2 cups fresh yellow-corn kernels (2 ears)

2 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sherry (optional)

1. In a stockpot, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on a paper towel and crumble. Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat. Add celery and onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 7 minutes.

2. Sprinkle flour over onion mixture and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Add clam juice, 1/2 cup water, potatoes, bay leaves , and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, cover and bring to a boil. Pick thyme leaves from stems. Add both to pot. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until potatoes are almost fork tender, about 12 minutes.

3. Add clams and reserved liquid, cover and cook 4 minutes over medium heat. Add corn, cover, and cook 4 to 6 minutes. Add milk and butter, then cook until butter melts, about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems, then add 1/8 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.

4. Serve immediately, drizzled with sherry, if using, and garnished with bacon.


Thin and slightly sticky, these mats may not seem to be made of the kind of material that can be tossed into the washing machine, but in fact that's all you have to do to keep your mat in good shape. Simply use a mild detergent and cold water, and stop the machine before it gets to the spin cycle: Then remove the mat, blot it with a thick towel and drape it over a rack to dry. Let it dry completely before rolling it up again.

If the mat is especially dirty, set the machine on the warm-cold setting (usually called permanent press). Too much heat over time can cause the mat to break apart a bit, but it is not harmful to use warm water once in a while.

Another way to wash the mat is to take it into the shower with you: Lay it in the tub, and soap up the mat with your feet while you bathe. Your excess soap will get it clean. (Be aware that it will be a little slippery.)

If you do yoga several times a week, wash the mat about once a week. Clean it monthly if you exercise less regularly. Keep your mat from acquiring an odor by wiping it after each workout with a mat-cleaning spray. To make your own spray, add five drops of tea-tree oil (available at health-food stores) to four cups of water, and pour the solution into a spray bottle.


One important consideration when choosing a rug is the traffic pattern in the room: For example, the carpet shouldn't force people to walk with one foot on the rug and the other on the bare floor.

The next factor to think about is the size of the room. A small room looks best, and most unified, with a rug that takes up most of the floor space and ends no more than a foot away from the wall around the perimeter.

You can break a large room into cozier areas with smaller rugs, each of which can hold a grouping of chairs or a work area. Smaller rugs should extend at least to the front of a sofa but not more than a few inches beyond the back.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42 d Street, New York N.Y. 10036. Questions may also e-mailed to: Please include your name, address , and daytime telephone number. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually. For more information on the topics covered in the Ask Martha column, visit

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