8/17/05 | Progresso Clam Chowder
[ Currently Eating: Not surprisingly, clam chowder ]
I went to Boston a few years ago to visit a friend who was just exiting the MIT program there. One of the best things I remember about the city was the food, and that included quite a few seafood joints… some good and some not. There were also a lot of bowls of Clam Chowder to be had there, and I did manage to try the Legal Seafood Clam Chowder which I thought was good though a bit on the salty side.
Not that we have any standards of excellence at Cheap Eats, but it is quite another thing to go from homemade or restaurant Clam Chowder to the kind in a can. This is the subject of today’s Cheap Eats special: Progresso Clam Chowder.
I know a lot of you are going to say you wouldn’t touch canned clam chowder with a 10 foot spoon, but there’s times when you just don’t feel like farking around with a fishmonger who doesn’t know a clam from a ham.
I have always stuck with non-condensed versions for canned chowder… that is soup that you can drink straight out of the can instead of adding bunches of water. One of the problems for me though, is that I think the “salt” taste buds on my tongue are malfunctioning compared to the average American because in nearly every case canned clam chowder straight up is just too powerful for me. It’s also quite thick and viscous and sometimes hard to eat; almost like clam slime instead of soup.
I think most people actually like their clam chowder really thick and while that may be a good thing in homemade soup, for the canned variety I think they just add a whole mess of thickener starch to it. It’s gloppy like corn starch. I’m not even sure what that is, nor do I care to know!
So, I always add a bit of water to the mix. About 1/8 to 1/2 a can will do ya good. And this is keeping in the spirit of Cheap Eats because you’ve just created more food out of thin air by just adding some water.
I’ve had Campbell’s Chunky Clam Chowder Soup most of the time, but this time I picked up a 6 pack of Progresso Clam Chowder at CostCo. It comes out to about a dollar and a quarter or so a can, which is much better than getting single cans at the market where it’ll run you up to $2.50 for a single can. The price of clam chowder is a big deal breaker for rating soup. I don’t know how soup got so expensive; what happened to 33 cent cans of Campbells’ Chicken Noodle Soup? Gone with the days of 30 cent Hershey Bars…
Campbell’s and Progresso are constantly fighting on TV with Progresso claiming their soup is more “adult” and isn’t as wimpy, while Campbell’s plays the “home-goodness, just like when you were a kid” card. Both are equally disillusioned. It’s canned soup after all. I think there’s plenty of room in the soup universe for both of them. I find that for some varieties Campbell’s is better while others Progresso wins.
For Clam Chowder, I think it’s a bit of a tossup. Progresso flavor is a bit more adult indeed. There are bigger pieces of clams in there and more of them. The soup has an almost tangy taste to it that I don’t think kids might like. I didn’t like the consistency of the potatoes too much – they were overly pasty even though the chunks were large enough. But overall, it’s a pretty decent staple to have in the cupboard for those days you don’t feel like cooking for lunch.
One place where Progresso wins hands down is in the SAND factor. The Sand factor is of course the amount of tooth-breaking grit laced in the chunks of clam in the soup. For Progresso, I find very little amount of Sand in the soup. Whereas, with Campbell’s I remember nearly breaking a molar once or twice. Sometimes there are actually little pieces of shell thrown in, no doubt by some coalition of unscrupulous dentists. I think the quality control may go up and down though for both brands. In any case, chew lightly when eating canned clam chowder.
Cheap Eats Score: 5/10