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VEISHEA: Cherry Pie & Flavors From Around the World

April 17, 2011

VEISHEA cherry pie

I love the Friday of VEISHEA week at Iowa State University.  That’s the day the kitchen of the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom opens up to throngs of ISU faculty, staff, and students clamoring for cherry pies.  The pies are just the right size — about the equivalent of a single slice, reshaped into a mini-pie — with the perfect filling-to-crust ratio.

A student fills cherry pies in the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom kitchen.

Both the filling and the crusts are made from scratch by ISU students.  The tradition of cherry pies started in 1922 to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, and has come to be a treasured part of the VEISHEA experience.

Spectators gather for the VEISHEA parade (Saturday, April 16, 2011)

The week-long spring festival known as VEISHEA also dates back to 1922, the first year the University brought together the then-7 major departments on campus in celebration: Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics, and Agriculture.

Members of the Hall Council for the Birch-Welch-Roberts Residential Hall march in the VEISHEA parade.

VEISHEA’s highlights include concerts, lectures, a parade, and an international food fair sponsored by the International Student Council (an umbrella organization uniting all of the campus’s international groups).

International Food Fair at the Memorial Union (Saturday, April 16, 2011)

The Midwestern Gentleman and I joined our friends Kori and Craig to sample the dishes on offer at the VEISHEA International Food Fair.  The recipes were chosen and prepared by each international student group.

(Left to right) Green onion pancakes, kimchi pancakes, and potato pancakes made by the Korean Students Association

Both the Midwestern Gentleman and I agreed the kimchi pancakes from the Korean Students Association were one of the best dishes we tasted — salty, sour, and slightly spicy.  We loved them so much, we plan to try making them ourselves at home.  Maangchi’s Korean home cooking website offers an easy-to-follow tutorial.

Curry puff made by the Association of Malaysian Students

The curry puff I bought from the Association of Malaysian Students was flaky on the outside, and packed with a flavorful, curried ground meat and potato mixture.

Meat pie made by the African Students Association

Kori and Craig enjoyed a rich meat pie (also stuffed with vegetables like potato and carrot) from the African Students Association.

Kushari made by the Egyptian Students Association

Kushari, a traditional Egyptian national dish, was another of our favorites today.  This vegetarian mixture of lentils, rice, and pasta is traditionally topped with spicy tomato sauce and fried onions.  The version we tasted today was slightly spicy, intensely flavorful, and had a satisfying combination of textures.  We have added this dish to our list of must-try recipes.

Gado Gado Salad made by the Indonesian Student Association

The Indonesian Student Association’s gado gado salad proved to be one of Craig’s favorite dishes, and looking back at the pictures, I am sorry I didn’t get a chance to try it!

Curry fried rice made by the Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition

One of Kori’s favorites was the curry fried rice from the Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition.  Its wonderful, spicy-hot, tangy curry flavor was unlike the curry blends I’m familiar with from India and Japan — a unique combination of spices I would love to taste again.

Chicken kabob with lentil rice made by the Iranian Students & Scholars Association

My only regret about the International Food Fair is that I didn’t have enough stomach real-estate to accommodate every dish I would have liked to try.  Kori and Craig enjoyed the chicken kabob, lentil rice, and cucumber-yogurt sauce prepared by the Iranian Students & Scholars Association, but by then I had moved on to desserts.

(Clockwise from upper left) Empanada and pasta frola - with the beverage terere above - made by the Argentinian-Uruguayan-Chilenean Students Association; tres leches cake made by the Latinoamericanos; more terere; sushi roll made by the Japanese Association; curry fried rice made by the Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition

The Midwestern Gentleman and I both found the Argentinian beverage terere (yerba mate tea prepared cold instead of hot) bright and refreshing, but its tang proved a bit too sour for Kori’s palate.

Aish Alsaraya made by the Arabian Gulf Student & Scholar Association

The Middle-Eastern dessert “Aish Alsaraya” means “bread of the royal palace” and is traditionally served on holidays and special occasions.  I think I enjoyed this version more than my three companions did.  Some recipes call for rose water, while others call for orange blossom water; whichever blossom scented this dish, its flavor was so intense that we felt like we were eating perfume.  Chatting with the director of ISU Catering, I learned that students pick the recipes used and are then assisted by ISU Catering in scaling up the recipe from 6-8 servings to 600-800 servings.  In some cases, the proportions work out better than others.  In spite of the dessert’s aggressive floral flavor, I enjoyed the way its ethereal texture combined with the muted crunch of the ground pistachios.

Pasta frola made by the Argentinian-Uruguayan-Chilenean Students Association

I tracked down the Argentinian dessert “Pasta Frola” after spying it on the plate of someone walking past me in the crowd.  This buttery shortbread is typically topped with a thick layer of quince jelly, which soaks into the top layer of the pastry, lending it moisture and tanginess.  It was a delicious ending to our tour of world flavors.

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2 Comments
  1. Kori permalink
    April 18, 2011 7:25 am

    Hey there. I wish I had your refined pallet. I think that beverage tasted a little like a mix of monster and gym socks. bleh. I’m still thinking about it. However, I’m also still thinking about the yummy things too!!!

  2. April 19, 2011 11:09 am

    Ha — I prefer your interpretation of my palate as “refined.” Usually, I think of myself as having the palate of a goat — willing to eat any- and everything.

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