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Persimmon Prediction Winter 2011-2012

Before it dumps a foot or more of snow, rendering my prediction moot, you should know the persimmon seeds indicate another white winter even though we didn’t have a white Christmas AND today’s temp may reach 60 degrees. Ignore those facts and pull out the snow melt, shovel, and Yukon-duty boots.  According to these we’re going to need them…

All Spoons

2011 Persimmon Seed Sample

Eighteen seeds from six fruit were split and nothing but spoons showed themselves. It’s also interesting to note only one utensil was found in each fruit. In other words regardless how many seeds a particular fruit held, the same utensil was in all of them.

2011 Persimmon Seed

The Farmer’s Almanac Blog gives the possible utensil discoveries and their prediction for the coming winter: “A knife shape will indicate a cold, icy winter (wind cuts through you like a knife). A fork shape indicates a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out all the snow.”

Naysayer?  Don’t believe a wet head or bare feet will make you catch cold or that Vicks rubbed somewhere on your body can’t cure winter ills?  Check out this scientific data before you laugh too loud: But First, Persimmons.

Other persimmon related posts:

A Spoon In My Persimmon

A Big Fat Persimmon Lie

Panforte and Persimmons: Road Trip Discoveries

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

But First, Persimmons

This is not the post I expected to write. It’s been awhile and maybe the cogs really do get rusty with abstinence. The reacquaintance with the keyboard brought visions of words that would convey the hum of warmth from the low slung New Mexican sun, the scrubbed clean scent of the juniper warmed by it, and the exaltation at the long shadowed, iconic Western images favored by it.  But it all became abstract and elusive when I sat down.

I did take the long-awaited solo road trip. You know the favored Fall one that starts with a bit of fear my running away may be permanent and ends with a proud shot of the trip odometer? It was a stellar trip from beginning to the 2,500+ mile end. And Arizona got into the mix this time.

But first, persimmons.  They’re the fruit of the gods you know.  I love the twig cross bar – beautiful and reminiscent of Asian pottery jars (the fruit originated in China).

There are several varieties, but most have this distinctive (and very memorable) quality – the unripened fruit is so high in tannins, your mouth will be welded shut upon the slightest nibble of the unripened fruit (technically a berry). It’s a common joke pulled on unsuspecting southern children, who will in almost all instances eat anything. Captain John Smith described them best: “If it not be ripe it will draw a man’s mouth awire with much torment. But when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an apricot.”  What’s not to love about a fruit this complex?

Wild Persimmon

The seeds – about the size of a watermelon seed – are hard as a hammer and slick as black ice (I compared this characteristic to snot last year). They protect a translucent white center that cradles a very distinct cooler-than-cool utensil.

If you manage to split one perfectly without blood tainting the lucite center and an ensuing trip to the emergency room, you’ll see something like this:

A Spoon In My Persimmon.

This was from two years ago, but it’s onehelluva perfect split (thank you Dooley McGyver). And not a bad shot.  Great light will do that.

The Farmer’s Almanac Blog gives the possible utensil discoveries and their prediction for the coming winter: “A knife shape will indicate a cold, icy winter (wind cuts through you like a knife). A fork shape indicates a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out all the snow.”

I’ve wondered about finding a spork.

This is last year’s seed samples.  There were several spoons as well, but none worth photographing. And these were hard earned so if you don’t clearly see a knife, use your imagination.

Accuracy so far?  Here’s the winter associated with the perfect spoon above:

Winter 2009-2010

And here’s the winter associated with last year’s knife:

Winter 2010-2011

So far for the two years I’ve been tracking this older than Methuselah harbinger, there have been only spoons and knives. Not a single fork (mild winter predictor) have my eyes seen.

So how about this year?  The wild persimmons are abundant on my parents’ ranch. The tree was a real beauty dripping with the unripened fruit – a color I mentioned in a previous post that was so glorious fashion designers would need a brown paper bag.  Deer were camping out around it waiting for the fruit to ripen and fall. Not really.

Here’s my “take” from the recent persimmon gathering treasure hunt – a turtle shell and a fossil.  Almost as thrilling as the year I found a perfect arrowhead.

the annual persimmon sample

The seed you ask?  What’s the cute little utensil in the seeds of this year’s crop?  The turtle shell has protected them until this weekend. I’ll be splitting and photoing and baking a new recipe with them, so you’ll just have to check back.

Want to read more about this ancient compact jewel?  Here are three previous posts.

A Spoon In My Persimmon

A Big Fat Persimmon Lie

Panforte and Persimmons: Road Trip Discoveries

 

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

 

Caveman Cookery, Meet Santa Fe Cuisine

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Black Bean Chili with Short Ribs – recipe below.

Caveman cookery. I’m partial to it. Recipes that can’t really be overcooked, don’t require a timer, rough chops are sufficient, measurements eyeballed – a dab here a skosh there a smidgen more, consistent outcomes,  served in what they were cooked, ingredients easy to come by and taste divine when served, are a few of my favorite things [recently watched The Sound of Music].

Take Collard Greens – their significance within the Southern culture and their heroic ability to lower cholesterol and fight cancer deserves capitalization. My husband and I love them. Possibly more than any single food item, they define Southern cuisine. Drinking pot likker, the highly concentrated, vitamin filled broth that results from cooking the greens down to a low gravy is a time honored hedonistic act that has resulted in more than one shooting at suppertime.

The reaction to the smell of cooking greens separates true Southerners from the wannabes.  I vote the turbid fragrance of greenery, soil, and spice that fills the house when they cook be bottled to take the place of Febreze.

“But I have never tasted meat, nor cabbage, nor corn, nor beans, nor fluid food as half as sweet as that first mess of greens.  —  James T.  Cotton Noe (1912)”.

I don’t know that guy, but I like him.

We Southerns take it on the chin for the amount of fried foods consumed – check out this technique for fried potatoes.

Oklahoma Fried Potatoes & Rocket Science

But I’m confident the amount of greens we eat counteracts that, since Collards are the undisputed king of all things good for you: read about their health benefits.  I calculate the bushels of Collards we eat in my kitchen every winter more than prepares our bodies for the stacks of hamburgers that fly off the summer grill.

Interestingly, the Greeks grew both Kale and Collards but made no distinction between them (an attempt to elevate collards to the cuisine level they merit).  Collards by the way, are considerably milder than Kale. Many wrongly believe the opposite.

There’s a wide choice of dark greens abundant during the winter months generally extending from December to April. And they’re so cheap you’ll cry.

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Collard greens are my choice green as they fall nicely in the Caveman Cookery Category (CCC) and have a great deal of texture and body; as opposed to Mustards, (from the mustard plant – kale and collards are a cabbage), which are more delicate in texture, and not in the Caveman Cookery Category (CCC). They require a proper cooking time, otherwise they go too soft and can become bitter (although I do love their peppery taste and will throw some in at the end of a collard cooking session). Turnip greens, the tops of turnips if you needed a hint, are the most bitter and chewiest/most substantial body quality of the bunch (too much so for me).

@thehomechef, Steve Collins, a chef in Santa Fe that was introduced to me via a Tweet from @santafetraveler (is that clear as black bean soup?) was gracious enough to give me the recipe for his Black Bean Chili with Short Ribs.  I didn’t tell him I’m a caveman cook or that I’d be serving the chili with Collard Greens. I’ve made the recipe a few times now, the first time I actually followed it. Since then I’ve refined it for the CCC (caveman cookery category).

Which really means that since I have kids in D.C. that are working their asses off in full time jobs during the day and spending nights plying their dream trade of musicians, while simultaneously making a gallant attempt at having normal lives that revolve around a real dinnertime, I took some liberties with the recipe – as in shortcuts.  I hope Steve won’t be offended when I tell him the shortcuts really don’t materially compromise the final product, much.

And in the recipe’s defense, I wouldn’t have experimented with it if it weren’t deserving of the investment in time.  It’s divine and if you wish to have a bit of Santa Fe Cuisine warm up your winter evening, you’ll make this recipe using any of its iterations. More than once.  And since I believe in giving credit where credit’s due, Steve says the original recipe came from Deborah Madison’s Green Restaurant Cookbook. But really, recipes are like stories.  A bit of personal embellishment, an alteration of the characters, a slight change of story progression, a pass on to others, and it becomes your own.   So thank you Steve for this recipe – it’s a wonderful winter indulgence.

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You asked the name of my kids’ band (son and future daughter-in-law might as well be a daughter)?  I thought I heard you ask that.  It’s North Meets South. As in he’s native Texan and she’s native North Dakotan. And they rock.  More people than I have said that (some that know what they’re talking about musically – they do more than simply watch The Sound of Music), so I make that statement simply because it’s true. If you live in the D.C. area, check their schedule for show dates. You could have them playing during your soon to be evening meal of Short Rib Black Bean Chili and Collard Greens. A glass of Italian Barolo would  make a nice accompaniment to the music and the meal.

North Meets South

North Meets South probably appreciates the plug.  Not so sure how they feel about being between a discussion of collard greens and chili.

SO. On with the cooking. Let’s start with the Collard Greens.

The Line Up…

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Put 3 quarts of water in a large pot. Add a package of salt pork, or bacon will do  (1/2 lb. –  I like it unsliced, but whatever..), 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1 TBL of seasoning salt, 1 TBL of hot sauce and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (whole).  Slow boil for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Then add main character.

The Main Character…

Wash. It’s the hardest part.

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Trim off the thickest part of stem. The quickest technique is to fold the leaf and pull away from stem. Don’t bother trying to remove all the stem. Too much trouble and it doesn’t matter.

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Stack them as high as you dare

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Roll ’em…

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Slice like a jelly roll

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Rough chop

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Stuff them into the pot with the reduced broth, sitting on the lid if need be.  They will not be covered by the broth.  Doesn’t matter.  They make a bit of their own juice as they cook down.  And since you’ll cook them at a medium flame for about 15 minutes, stirring them every 5 minutes, they won’t burn.  After the 15 minutes, turn down to very low and take a nap.

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They’ll look pale and wimpy after about an hour.  Not to fret, they won’t taste pale and wimpy.

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Besides Black Bean Chili with Short Ribs, these are a few things I’ll serve with and/or on my mess o’greens.

  • olive oil
  • roasted garlic
  • dark sesame oil
  • Tabasco’s Spicy Soy Sauce (always in my cupboard, ordered by the case from Cajun Grocer).
  • cornbread. I don’t like the typically sweet Southern cornbread.  I make it with NO sugar in the batter, lots of butter melted in screaming hot cast iron skillet. Thick, crunchy exterior with the satisfying grit that can only be had from cornmeal. Moist, grainy interior. Yum.
  • hot peppers steeped in vinegar
  • a tomato
  • pinto beans
  • black eye peas

Black Bean Chili with Short Ribs

In a crock pot put 2 lbs of beef short ribs. Season the ribs with salt, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 TBL chili powder, 1 cup of sliced thin red onion, and 1 cup tomato sauce.  Cook on low overnight. Remove from pot. De-bone, removing excess fat. Place meat back into crock pot.

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The original recipe calls for 1) dredging the ribs in a bit of flour and browning before adding to crock pot.  And 2) making your own ancho chile powder. Neither of which are difficult.  I made the first batch of chili utilizing these techniques, then dropped them for the streamlined version – no browning of the ribs and packaged ancho chile powder.

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warming through the dried ancho chiles before grinding them.

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use a blender for making the powder, not a food processor if you decide to make your own ancho chili powder

Back to the streamlined version:  In a large pan, saute 2 cups of diced onions (about 5 minutes) with one chopped Poblano pepper (purchased by accident, but then just decided to throw it in – original recipe does not call for one). Then add 2 cloves finely diced garlic and saute for another minute.  Add 3-4 TBL of ancho chile powder, 1 tsp ground chipotle powder, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 – 16 oz cans black beans and 1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes. Stir to Mix. Add to meat in the crock pot. Cook on low for another 2-3 hours.  Serve with collards – what else?

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Along with the accidental Poblano, this isn’t called for by the original recipe either. But I like using it for chili recipes (1 TBL).

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The Caveman Cook uses all the grease a food emits until the end.  She cooks with it. She doesn’t serve it.  I love this trick from my grandmother. I can only do the 3rd person schtick for so long.

Allow the pot to sit untended (in other words don’t stir for a bit). The grease will rise to the top. Take a slice of bread and toss it on.

It will immediately soak up the grease riding on the food like a stubborn storm cloud over a just cut hay meadow.

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‘Immediately’ means to toss it on, turn it, remove it.  Don’t let it sit. You don’t want it soaking up the liquid goodness, just the grease. If needed toss on another one.

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I also love these – Dingle crystal celtic flame patterned tumbler from Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula – a road trip I’ve yet to write about.  And its contents – vodka tonic, my drink of choice. Which segues into telling you my other favored kitchen trick is putting limes down the garbage disposal (from the vodka tonic). Works better than baking soda. I’m not sure how all that came about but it works.

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Newspapers and crockpots just go together – another kitchen trick.

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If the chili is too thick for your taste or it thickens too much overnight in the fridge,  add a splash of the wine you served, or beef broth.

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If this is the first blog post you’ve read that incorporated collard greens, chili, Italian Barolo wine, Dingle Peninsula hand blown crystal, grease removal, and a band poised for the big time, HONK.

Get your traveling foodie groove on over at Wanderlust and Lipstick, Wanderfood Wednesday.

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

But I have never tasted meat, nor cabbage, nor corn, for beans, nor fluid food on half as sweet as that first mess of greens.
James T. Cotton Noe (1912)

Panforte and Persimmons: Road Trip Discoveries

New food discovered on road trips do just as Fannie Farmer’s 1912 cookbook says – they inspire me. In the span of a month of mostly local road trips, I’ve discovered panforte and persimmon bread, tackled one of them, eaten a lot of the other, made a mental investment on how the two lack the exaltation they merit, and arrived at this conclusion: panforte is to fruitcake what persimmon bread is to quick bread.


fanniefarmercookbook

"The art of cookery, when not allied with a degenerate taste or with gluttony, is one of the criteria of a people's civilization. We grow like what we eat: bad food depresses, good food exalts us like an inspiration." -- Fannie Merritt Farmer from her 1912 cookbook, A New Book of Cookery.

Fruitcake is made with things I don’t want to nibble while in the process of making it. What exactly is candied peel other than chunks and bits of glycerin color that show up on grocery shelves for a few weeks of the year in plastic containers that can’t be recycled?  The only thing that makes fruitcake marginally palatable for most is a generous soaking of whiskey and a shot of the same thrown back with every bite.

Panforte on the other hand, is an epiphany.

Panforte

Panforte (pan-FOHR-tay) is a dense, chewy, traditional Italian dessert created around 1200. Fruit, nuts and spices are suspended in a peppery, mahogany lava of sugar and honey that’s cooked to a candy consistency before troweling the concoction into a shallow round pan and sliding it into the oven. Yes, I said “peppery”, as in black and/or white pepper, and plenty of it. Confectioner’s sugar is dusted liberally on both sides while still warm. You won’t know whether to pour yourself a glass of sherry or yank out the milk jug.

Persimmon bread, or the persimmon bread I’ve been making, has a quick bread ease, but further comparison to quick bread halts there.  The batter has the eye popping color of a 64-count box of Crayolas. The texture is complicated – heavy and damp, with the grain of the bread fine and light.  The distinguishing ingredient, persimmons,  conveys something rare and misunderstood – an uncommon fruit with a bad rap. Maybe the confection is so memorably good because expectations are low going in.  But maybe it’s so good, because it’s ambrosial. The ancient Greeks knew the fruit as that of the gods.

persimmon bread batter

Buy either the hachiya or fuyu persimmon, roast some nuts, and get to stirring!

Fuyu Persimmon

I first posted a persimmon bread recipe when I wrote about the persimmon seed being a harbinger of winter. I’ve since adapted that recipe because that’s what I do. No recipe comes into my kitchen and exits unscathed. Here’s my version adapted from James Beard’s Beard on Bread.

Persimmon bread ingredients

Recipe: Persimmon Bread

Ingredients

  • 3½ cups sifted AP flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoon baking soda
    2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
    2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
    2½ cups sugar
    1 cup melted butter, cooled
    4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
    2/3 cup cognac, bourbon or whiskey
    2 cups persimmon puree (from about 6 squishy-soft Fuyu persimmons)
    2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
    2 cups dates or raisins

Instructions

    1. Butter 2 full size loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess. If you want to use the paper loaf pans, the recipe will make several of these, depending on the size of the pans.
    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    3. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
    4. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins/fruit.
    5. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Persimmon bread

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Too Much Chocolate, Cheese, and Red Meat

Telling my editor the chicken tortilla soup recipe I’d acquired from one of my favorite chefs in Oklahoma City was “a huge coup” and should be included as a side bar to the article I’d submitted wasn’t a lie until I added that it was the best chicken tortilla soup I’d ever had AND I’d had it all over the world.  All over the world?  Is chicken tortilla soup something you can get outside the lower sash of America’s skirt?

Yummy!

So I lied to my editor to trump something up.  Sometimes I don’t wash fruit before I eat it. Often don’t eat enough of the rainbow of foods unless you count salsa on chips that have a melted three-cheese blend oozing atop. Talk with my mouth open occasionally when I’m eating. Drink more than the doctor recommended two cocktails a week.

And believe men in their 50s/60s driving fast black low-slung cars with foreign names are not going through a mid life crisis.  They’ve wanted a car like that since they exited the womb and can finally afford it for the first time in their risqué-starved hard working lives.  The fact their seat mate may be a 23 year old platinum blonde with sparkly skin is beside the point. SHE’S attracted to the fast black car.  The old guy behind the wheel knows that, but doesn’t care.  I hardly believe he can be condemned for his predicament.  Give the guy a break.  Besides he needs someone with bouncy bones to help him out of the car. It’s too low to exit gracefully at his age.

When the menopause hits, I will take whatever drugs I can get my hands on.  Shorten my life?  From what? The normal age of 101 that the women in my family call it quits to say, oh maybe 90? I’ll take it.  I drive too fast and wear a seatbelt under protest, seething at the law that fines me under the guise of telling me it’s for my own protection. I’d wear it even without the law. It’s the law forcing it upon me by telling me what’s best for me that I can’t abide…  If they’d pull their heads out long enough to look around, they’d realize making cell phone use illegal while driving would save OTHER people’s lives, and would leave those of us age 18 and above to decide what’s best for our own skin.

I eat too much chocolate, cheese and red meat. I’m at my ideal weight but take a BP pill everyday. Something about genetics.  Can cuss like a sailor with “ass” being a favorite and most creatively enunciated word in my vocabulary. I’ll contemplate a face lift when needed and will pursue it if I can afford to. I figure I’ve used cheap ass soap and water all my life, so compared to the hoards of women falling for the promises from the $175 department store creams, I’ll be financially  ahead in the end. And look a hell of a lot better than they do when my scars heal. Furthermore I’ll be proud of the results and will not make the embarrassing mistake of saying I went to some spa in Arizona for a week of pure relaxation or something equally ass weak as that.

It won’t negate all these admittances or the future infractions I’m sure to commit. But here’s Oklahoma City’s Cheever’s Cafe Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe. It really is the best I’ve had. No lie.

Cheever’s Café Chicken Tortilla Soup from Head Chef Ryan Lawson

  1. ½ of a yellow onion
  2. Olive oil
  3. 2 ½ cans (16 oz) diced tomatoes
  4. 4 oz can green chiles
  5. ¾ lb of cream cheese
  6. 1 TBL Chili powder
  7. Salt
  8. 1 TBL Cumin
  9. 1 tsp Cayenne
  10. 1 tsp Minced garlic
  11. 1 bay leaf
  12. Diced cooked chicken 1 lb +
  13. 1 ½ qts of chicken stock

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Sauté the onions in the olive oil.  Note: Saute = throw the heat to the onions.  Brown bits of goodness is what we’re looking for.

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Add tomatoes, green chiles and spices to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes.  I prefer less acidity so only use 2 cans (or less) of the tomatoes.  And I use the 1-4 oz can of chiles and add another can of whole chiles.

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Add cream cheese and slowly bring to a boil.

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Mash the mixture to fully incorporate everything.

Add the chicken. You could roast your own, but why would you do that? Buy a plain rotisserie chicken,  pull from the bone, tear into pieces, and call it done.

Then add the chicken stock and bring to boil. Simmer for 20 more minutes.

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Decorate, I mean garnish. And enjoy.

The Final Product

This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick. Check them out!

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The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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