Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Best soup I have since I come to America

When I was in grad school, one of the really cool non-academic programs was a multi-day outdoor adventure before school started in the fall. The trips were organized and led by second-year students, and first-year students had the option to attend the trip of their choice.

My first year, I went on a backpacking trip to fly fish in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana. I hiked through some amazing places and caught hundreds of trout. Aside from a guy from the Dominican Republic getting altitude sickness at roughly the same elevation as my current house, it couldn't have been better.

My second year, two of my friends and I organized a trip to Alaska to go backpacking in Denali National Park, whitewater rafting on the Nenana River, and then travelling by float plane to Shuyak Island (the northernmost island in the Kodiak archipelago) for several days of sea kayaking and fishing for silver salmon.

Roughly 35% of each class is composed of international students, some of whom have spent significant time in the USA; some of whom have never been before. One of the students who chose to come on our Alaska trip was a guy named Haibo. Haibo was from Shanghai, arrived in Ann Arbor with just enough time for me to take him to Cabela's to get outfitted for the trip, and then a few days later we hopped a plane for Anchorage.

One of the things I noticed about Haibo was that he really liked soup. The first couple of days we had several meals in restaurants, and each time he ordered soup. On day three or four of the trip, we elected to pull the plug on our backpacking a day early due to weather (it had rained nonstop for three days) and checked into a hotel.

The hotel had a free breakfast buffet with a vast assortment of typical American breakfast items, including sausage gravy and biscuits.

I noticed that Haibo came back from the buffet with a big bowl full of sausage gravy, but no biscuits. I knew what was coming. About a half-dozen spoonfuls in, I asked Haibo how he liked his soup. "Very good shoap. Best shoap I have since I come to America." When I explained that it was called gravy and eaten with biscuits, he was confused. Biscuits to him were what you or I would likely call a cookie.

Later someone else explained to him how the sausage gravy was made, and he was disgusted with himself. But not so disgusted to keep him from eating every last morsel save the bone (fat, grissle, you name it) of a 20 ounce porterhouse steak a few nights later. After that, one of the guys started taking over/under bets on how much weight Haibo would gain by graduation. Don't know how he did it, but he was still skinny when I graduated almost a year later.


  1. Haibo was apparently the Asian Homer Simpson.

  2. Mmmmm, bacon.

    Haibo was/is a great guy. Cracked me up every time I saw him. Smart, too, because his command of English obviously wasn't that great but still got good grades.

    Oh, forgot to mention the part about gutting a female salmon and watching him go nuts as the eggs spilled out all over the place. He thought he'd died and gone to heaven, popping those things in his mouth.

  3. Funny post. I remember that story. I also remember the smoked salmon from your trip. That was delicious.