VEISHEA: Cherry Pie & Flavors From Around the World
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Kori and Craig enjoyed a rich meat pie (also stuffed with vegetables like potato and carrot) from the African 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.