A peek inside the cookbook hidden on the UVic Fine Arts website

Culture Food | Drink

UVic alumnus reunited with mother’s cookbook, lost in plain sight for almost three decades

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The next time you’re staring into your fridge wondering what to cook (yet again), why not take some inspiration from the secret recipe book on the UVic Fine Arts website?

A total of 174 original recipes were recently discovered on an official UVic website by the Martlet — a little Easter egg left behind from the wilder, untamed days of the Internet. 

The website boldly states on its landing page, “This is a directory for the favorite recipes of the faculty, staff and students of UVic.” 

Uploaded by a work study student in the Fine Arts computer lab, the cookbook has gone through 30 years of server migrations and at least three domain name changes to where it lies quietly dormant today, an orphaned page, forgotten even by its own creator. 

The Martlet was able to track down the work study student who uploaded it back in the 1990s: Eric Jordan, BFA ‘93 with a specialization in painting. Jordan, along with David Manning, were the original work study students for what would eventually become the Fine Arts computer lab.

“I had figured that those recipes were lost to time,” said Jordan.  “I’ve tried a couple of times to see if I could find them. Clearly, I didn’t look hard enough!”

Like all great cookbooks, the recipes belonged to Jordan’s mother (who has since passed away), and were digitized through WordPerfect on an IBM 386 computer. Neatly indexed into the six categories of main and light courses, accompaniments, salads, soups, vegetables, and desserts, the recipes themselves are now bare-bones HTML pages, hidden deep within the UVic servers. The list contains just five vegetable dishes, and 60 different recipes for desserts from almond crescent cookies to Yorkshire curd tarts.

“[My mother] only lived long enough to meet my first child (born in 1999). It is one of the great sadnesses in my life that she never got to meet my other two sons. However, my mother always loved to cook and so I try my best to faithfully recreate her food using [her] recipes in order to share my memories of her with my children,” said Jordan.

The recipes were supposedly just a placeholder for the Fine Arts Gopher server — a precursor to the World Wide Web — but the cookbook was also migrated onto the fine arts website, originally located at kafka.uvic.ca. 

According to Senior Scientific Assistant Mike Huston, who has been working for the UVic SIM Labs since the early days, the department was the first to host a website on campus. Things have changed a lot since then.

“Everything now is branded by department,” says Huston. “Things are now so organized to be … clean and public-friendly in theory.”

“The Internet was a very different place back then. It was kinda like a very small village where you knew everyone,” recalls Jordan. “Now it is like this almost incomprehensibly huge metropolis. Back in the day, you could spend a few minutes each day and visit every single new website that was created.”

When asked if he knew of any other Easter eggs, Huston thinks that it is unlikely that interesting bits of Internet history like Jordan’s will remain in UVic’s new website overhaul

“Security’s crazy these days,” he said. “I don’t know how much that is doable. It takes some of the fun out, but I mean, you had no choice. [If you did,] you’d end up with machines hacked to death, and then they’d use them to do mischief. It would just be destroyed.”

In the interest of protecting the cookbook from those who may seek to remove it from the Fine Arts website, the Martlet will not disclose its current location.

Jordan briefly worked full-time at the computer lab after he graduated before co-founding enterprise software company PureEdge Solutions with Manning, his work study colleague. The company was eventually acquired by IBM in 2005 for an undisclosed sum. Jordan is considered to be one of Canada’s early Internet pioneers, and is still an active influence in Victoria’s tech industry.

Jordan is now CEO of the locally-based indie video game company Codename Entertainment, which is also a UVic alumni-founded endeavour. An avid kilt-wearer, Jordan splits his time between travelling to gaming conventions for work and spending time in Victoria with his wife, his three sons, and his cats. He still enjoys his mother’s recipes.

Below are some of Jordan’s mother’s recipes, directly from the UVic Fine Arts website.

Yorkshire Curd Tea Tart

Pastry:
4 oz flour 1 pinch salt
1 1/2 oz caster sugar 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
3 1/2 oz butter 1 egg yolk

Mix dry and cut in butter. Quickly work in yolk. Chill. Butter 8.5 inch pan and line with rolled and rested pastry. Chill.

Filling:
4 oz butter 2 oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest 2 eggs, separated
9 oz curd cheese, sieved or half cottage cheese, half cream cheese
4 oz raisins 1pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1 tablespoon ground almonds

Cream butter and sugar. Add zest, cheese, yolks and raisins.

Seperately whisk whites until firm and fold into mixture. Scatter ground
almonds over pastry and pour in filling. Bake at 400 for 15 min.; then
325 for 15 min. Cool on rack.

Bruschetta

1 pound ripe Italian plum tomatoes

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/4 pound mozzarella

Wash, seed, and chop the tomatoes. Mix tomatoes with oil, salt, basil, and garlic and let stand at room temperature until shortly before serving. When ready to serve, split a French baguette and toast it under the broiler. While the bread is grilling, chop the cheese into small pieces and add to the bruschetta. Slice the bread and serve. This is GREAT starter and I have yet to serve it to anyone who didn’t want the recipe. It does keep overnight but is best served shortly after being made. Leftovers (there are rarely leftovers!) mix beautifully with most salad dressings and make a wonderful garlic laced dressing.

I have actually given up trying to do this as a starter because people eat so much of it that they don’t want the main course. Now I make a double batch and serve it with the bread, some Greek olives and peppers and perhaps some cold sliced turkey or salami. This antipasto plate is a meal!

NOTE: Regular tomatoes will work in this recipe, but the plums tend to give a better result as they are firmer.