In France over the summer, at Boulogne-sur-Mer, we enjoyed the caudière pictured, made with two types of sea fish, onion, potato, beer, and cream. It is one form of a classic French coastal dish. Variants include all-crustacean, or mixed with ocean fish, wine or poultry stock as the base, various herbal additions, garlic or scallion, and on it goes.
The basic form combines potato, fish or seafood, and onion in a soup-stew format. I realized when ordering it that our chowders are surely connected. Chowder is said to derive from the French dish chaudrée, in turn from chaudière, a vessel to heat or boil or chaudron, for cauldron.
The term chaud, or hot, seems a link in these terms. So, a heated mixture of ingredients took its name from the container, just as tourtière in Quebec, the minced meat pie, took its name from the container. In France still the same dish is called tourte, with tourtière is reserved for the cookware.
The etymology may be otherwise, suggests this learned account in Wikipedia. Not surprising, there is disagreement too whether caudière derives from the any of the above terms, but I think it must.
The dish must be very old, as we have versions on the East Coast that French seafarers must have brought centuries ago. This one from Prince Edward Island is seafood-based, cream and onion duly appear. It is from a tourist website with local recipes in both English and French. The English one terms it “seafood chowder”…
In La Cuisine à la Bière, published in 1981 in Saint-Georges in the Beauce, Quebec by Productions Amérique Francaise (no author credited), there appears a Chaudrée des Maritimes virtually identical to the Boulogne dish, except evaporated milk is used for cream.
An understandable change, from when remote regions did not always have access to fresh dairy, or if available, were for many unaffordable. Into the 1970s English food writers such as Jane Grigson still showed sensitivity to the cost aspect when proposing recipes using cream.
Sometimes culinary authenticity trumps locality, though. In Boulogne, I saw moules marinières many times on menus, but only once made with beer. Even in a proud beer region, the dish was almost always with white wine. I asked a restaurateur if he would make it with beer, an ingredient in other dishes he offered.
His brow furrowed, and he said oui, but he didn’t seem fully accepting of the notion.
The soup forms of chowder, especially the Manhattan and New England clam chowders, are yet another subset of the chowder clan. I didn’t see that in France, but the clam I think (palourde) still has something of the foreign attached to it.
It is native to many areas of the world but the Hexagone, if I understand it correctly, only counts the clovisse as native, in the Mediterranean basin. This is the grooved carpet shell clam. Numerous clam varieties, including North American and Asian, are farmed in France but this came later, relatively speaking.