The Real Reason Restaurants Often Serve Clam Chowder On Fridays

With its often-creamy consistency, clam chowder has become a comfort food staple over the years. Of course, there are technically two main types of clam chowder, with the cream-based version being New England and the broth-based variant being Manhattan. 

The New England version has been around since the 1700s, Eater reports. It's unclear exactly who introduced the chowder recipe to the United States, but according to "Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover's Companion to New York City," it was one of three groups: French, Nova Scotian, or British settlers. Since then, clam chowder has become a staple in not only northeastern eateries but also popular at restaurants around the country. Its Manhattan counterpart, which is made with tomatoes and has a lighter consistency, didn't come along until 1934. Plenty of other varieties have appeared through the years, including local renditions in New Jersey and Florida (via Paula Deen Magazine).

But clam chowder has been a popular choice for another reason: This seafood soup is often served on Fridays because of a long-standing tradition having to do with religion.

Clam chowder is often served as a meat alternative

Those who follow the Catholic church might be familiar with the idea of not eating meat on Fridays, especially during Lent, which is the annual time period between the Christian holidays of Ash Wednesday and Easter in the late winter and early spring. Not all Catholics still abstain from meat consumption on Fridays during Lent, however, as the practice used to be more popular than it is today. The Catholic church previously required that followers remove meat from their diet every Friday, not just during Lent. But according to National Catholic Register, U.S. bishops made the meatless day of the week optional in 1966, though some who closely practice the religion still follow the traditional request.

People looking for meat substitutes — including Catholics during Lent — often turn to seafood, which also provides the body with protein. According to data via Healthline, a 3-ounce serving of clams contains 12 grams of protein, while a 3.5-ounce serving of broiled, ground beef with 10% fat offers 26.1 grams of protein. Thus, Foodimentary reports that many restaurants serve clam chowder on Fridays as a hearty alternative to Catholics and other customers abstaining from carnivorism. Serving this seafood soup on the last workday of the week is a tradition that still continues at many businesses today.