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In chap­ter 15 of “Moby Dick”, Melville’s nar­ra­tor and al­terego, Ish­mael, waxes rhap­sodic at the sight and smell of a steam­ing bowl of clam chow­der served up by the pro­pri­etress of the Try Pots Inn on Nan­tucket: “Oh! sweet friends, hear­ken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely big­ger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship bis­cuits, and salted pork cut up into lit­tle flakes! The whole en­riched with but­ter, and plen­ti­fully sea­soned with pep­per and salt.”

Nan­tucket and New Bed­ford, where theMor­gan was launched in 1841 andMelville set his fa­mous novel’s open­ing scene, were among the busiest whal­ing ports in New Eng­land. They were also among the last places whalers en­joyed a de­cent home-cooked meal, which in­cluded chow­der, a sea­man’s fa­vorite, al­though this sig­na­ture New Eng­land soup was some­times served on board as well.

“I think the cap­tain’s cabin got chow­der more of­ten then the men in the fo’c’sle [the fore­cas­tle, or for­ward part of the ship, where the main crew lived and ate],” said food his­to­rian Sandy Oliver, edi­tor and pub­lisher of Food His­tory News (food­his­tory Oliver is the au­thor of “Salt­wa­ter Food­ways: New Eng­lan­ders and Their Food, at Sea and Ashore, in the Nine­teenth Century”, a de­fin­i­tive book on the sub­ject, and founded the hearth cook­ing pro­gram atMys­tic Sea­port in

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