Chapter 15 Chowder

        The trip from New Bedford to Nantucket having taken all day, Ishmael and Queequeg disembark on Nantucket Island in the dark, and need to ask directions to find their destination: Hosea Hussey's Try Pots hotel, famous for chowders. (Note that a "try pot" is a huge, black iron cauldron used aboard a whaleship for melting a whale's blubber down to liquid oil. This process was known as "trying out"). New Bedford landlord Peter Coffin had recommended his "cousin Hosea's" as one of the best in Nantucket. (Note that Melvile is alluding, by the term "cousin", to the extensive interrelatedness that existed at the time amongst the whaling clans. Some names of the original settlers of Nantucket such as Barnard, Coffin, Coleman, Folger, Gardner, Greenleaf, Hussey, Macy, Starbuck, and Swain were scattered throughout Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod, and the rest of New England at the time Melville wrote Moby-Dick, about 1850).

        Melville continues to drop ominous hints, suggesting that to Ishmael, the sign of the Try Pots -- an old top-mast and cross-trees, from which swung two black pots -- looked like a gallows, prompting the misgiving, "A Coffin my Innkeeper upon landing in my first whaling port, tombstones staring at me in the whalemen's chapel; and here a gallows! and a pair of prodigious black pots too! Are these last throwing out oblique hints touching Tophet?" (Note that Tophet is a biblical term referring to a Hebrew word for a place near Jerusalem where children were offered as human sacrifices to the fire god Molech. More of fire worship in succeeding chapters.)

        Mr. Hussey, of course is absent on a whaling voyage as are many of the Nantucket men. That leaves Mrs. Hussey to run the inn, (Nantucket was famous for being run by the women who were left at home while the men sailed on three and four year stints in the whale fishery) and she is spied on the porch, dressed in yellow, scolding some poor man in a purple shirt. She greets the odd couple with a terse, "Clam or Cod?" They soon understand that this refers to chowder, and they order their fill of both kinds, waxing ecstatic over the excellence of Nantucket chowder.

        "Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots. Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper. (What's that saying about chowder-headed people?) The area before the house was paved with clam shells . . . "

        Mrs. Hussey forbids Queequeg from taking his harpoon to bed with him. "Ever since young Stiggs coming from that unfort'nate v'y'ge of his, when he was gone four years and a half, with only three barrels of ile, was found dead in my first floor back with his harpoon in his side, ever since then I allow no boarders to take such dangerous weepons in their rooms at night. So, Mr. Queequeg, I will just take this here iron, and keep it for you till morning. Clam or cod to-morrow for breakfast, men?"