Clam Chowder Wars – One Mans Fight For Chowder Rights
Once upon a time a tomato-hating politician from Rockland, Maine took it on himself to rid all chowder of the red fruit. He prepared a bill to make it a crime to pollute clam chowder with tomato in 1939.
The crime came with a sever punishment. The offender would be sentenced to digging up a barrel of clams at high tide if found guilty. Any clammer will tell you that this is not only cruel punishment, but absurdly impossible.
At the time he attempted the bill, Cleveland Sleeper (yes, that’s his real name) was a State Rep.
For twenty years Sleeper had repeatedly prepared bills banning tomatoes from chowder when finally the Maine Hotel Association decided to step in and settle the matter at its mid-winter frolic in Portland.
Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate-chip cookie, was one of the judges to settle the high-stakes contest.
Sleeper and his rival Harry Tully, a restaurateur from Philly, both brought their own chefs.
Sleeper’s main man-made up some traditional Maine clam chowder to fight it out with Tully’s tomato-based Manhattan Clam Chowder.
“Each appealed to the palates of a distinguished gallery of chowder epicures,” reported the Associated Press in the Nashua Telegraph. “The epicures, headed by Maine’s Governor, Lewis O.Barrows, gravely sipped the rival concoctions.”
Sleeper tried the Manhattan chowder. “Ugh, this is a vegetable soup, not clam chowder,” he said.
Tully’s Manhattan Clam Chowder didn’t stand a chance. The judges voted unanimously for its New England rival.
“Maine Chowder Wins Over Tomato-Type” read the Lewiston Sun Journal headline. “Rep. Sleeper’s Campaign for “Unpolluted” Dish Is Successful.
Sleeper was triumphant. “If a clam could vote, I would be elected President,” he crowed.