I have been eating and making this my entire life! I also use the same basic recipe to do my clam and corn chowders. Chowder must be a milk based soup and the originals were fish and clam only. Corn and some wacky ones appeared later. I thicken my chowders and my mother doesn't. It is personal preference, though the earliest chowders were thickened using ground Ship's Biscuit and then Common Crackers. Chowder means Maine to me, where I was born and raised. I use evaporated milk for the creaminess without the cream. Many use milk and some use half-and-half. Chowder should be simple and flavorful from the fish or clams, potatoes and onions and never "mucked up." Okay, so I am a chowder purist! :) I have also given my own clam and corn chowder variations. Small salt pork cubes crackly fried and drained on a paper towel used to be added last to chowder though many people dropped this when cholesterol became bad news. My mother stopped using the fried salt pork which I never could keep my hands out of before it went into the chowder. I have gotten used to it this way and even in many/most chowder houses around New England, you will see this practice has ceased.