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View Diary: Dear Food Service Employers, (239 comments)

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  •  absolutely. cooking is not all that tough. (8+ / 0-)

    take some classes, talk to some friends, get some recipes... get a good basic cook book and really read through it... how to preheat an oven, all the other tips and tricks.  get some better dishes, pots and pans and utensils.  

    come back here and write about it again in a couple of months... ;

    •  It's really a cost of entry issue (15+ / 0-)

      It's easier to come up with $6 for a drive-thru meal than it is to come up with $100+ for utensils, seasonings, pots, pans, etc. Even if those things save me money in the long run, that doesn't help me pay for them now.

      I have been cooking more, but I can't say that I have been cooking well.

      It's also harder being single. Most recipes make 4+ servings and not everything keeps well. And I don't even know what things do keep well or how best to keep them. These things may seem like common sense to people who grew up helping out in the kitchen, but my mom is OCD and we weren't even allowed in the kitchen.

      Pretty much the only thing I can really make right now, without having a lot of stuff that goes to waste, is peanut butter and jelly or frozen veggies and tofu braised in bullion or stock with udon noodles. I can also bake my own bread, and, in fact, do quite a bit, since it is cheaper than store bought bread.

      Classes are expensive. Cookbooks are cheap, but the recipes always call for ingredients I don't have. Now I have to make a trip to the store and spend $20 on turmeric powder and wild rice? What if I don't like turmeric and spend all the money and never use it again? It's a lot easier to go to Little Ceasers and spend $5 on a hot and ready pizza that will feed me for two days. Heck, I can get 4 meals for $5, that's probably cheaper than anything I can make at home, anyway.

      I don't mean to rant, but I think people who have cupboards full of ingredients and tools don't really realize how difficult and expensive it is to get started for someone who has empty cupboards.

      •  Can I recommend something? (8+ / 0-)

        Take a cooking class.  A lot of local school districts offer day or nighttime courses in cooking basics, food selection, using different veggies to enhance an entree, etc.   Learn how to work with portions.  It's great to cook once a week when you have the time, and basically make all of your meals for the entire coming week.  I'm telling you, once you get into food prep, and feel confident with it, you'll rarely eat out again except for social occasions.  And you'll save a shit ton of money.

        There are a lot of good cooks on DKos who can give you some great tips, as well.  Do take a look around for free or cheap cooking courses, too - well worth the investment in time.

        Oh, last thing - your cooking weaponry, pots, pans, etc.?  Your local thrift store is a great place to outfit your kitchen area.  And if you can find a food processor (and learn how to use it) you are double-plus golden.  

        "Mitt who? That's an odd name. Like an oven mitt, you mean? Oh, yeah, I've got one of those. Used it at the Atlas Society BBQ last summer when I was flipping ribs."

        by Richard Cranium on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:05:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Equipment (8+ / 0-)

        Here's how you do equipment:  buy one thing at a time.  When you go to the store, go down the kitchen aisle and pick up a spatula for $2.  Next time, get an $8 skillet, and so on.  Pretty soon, you'll have most everything you need, and then you can just add equipment occasionally.

        Also, since you won't be cooking that often, try getting ONE good version of each thing.  Pick out a good wooden spoon, for example, for a couple bucks, and then just keep it washed.  You don't need that much.

        My recommended first thing:  a set of nested glass bowls for prep.

        I'm not a Republican, but I'm saving up to be one. - Emo Phillips

        by GenXWho on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:10:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Lasagne freezes extremely well (5+ / 0-)

        and is very easy to portion out.  One meal's worth will fit in a sandwich size baggie.

        It's not difficult to make, either.

        Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

        by loggersbrat on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:14:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've been wanting to make lasagne (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Kevskos, sethtriggs

          but I keep chickening out. I have a pasta roller, but my pasta keeps turning out awful. I realize I can buy pasta, but I wish I could learn how to make it. It'd probably be cheaper and I would know exactly what is in it.

          •  Fresh pasta is delicious, (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, Kevskos, iLDemfromPA, sethtriggs

            but dried pasta is just fine. For a cooking project, make fresh pasta. For a quick dinner, boil water and throw in dried pasta.

            •  saute some seasonal veggies in olive oil/garlic (4+ / 0-)

              add in a couple cans of seasoned, low-sodium diced tomatoes and serve over whole grain pasta. dried basil, oregano and thyme if you have it. add rotisserie chicken if you want some protein.

              bon appetite!

              mittens=edsel. no matter how much money is spent to promote it, if the product sucks, no one will buy it.

              by wewantthetruth on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:44:40 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  If you (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Cardinal Fang

                like blue cheese (or gorgonzola) you can put some with pepper on some pasta and have dinner for one in just a few minutes.  I love making home made pasta but it is a little more work.  Buy good quality whole wheat dry pasta for the quick meal.

            •  Yep, the quick meal prep is key (0+ / 0-)

              I agree with this.  I have some dishes I've gotten to like to cook over the years - some my mom taught me and such.  Like great meat sauce for spaghetti - the kind you simmer for 3 hours.  Make it on the weekend, freeze it in small containers.  While fresh pasta is terrific, if your sauce is good, even dry pasta tastes better.  I also make a nice roast and a good lasagna...but those dishes do take a bit of time...but can be frozen and reheated, which is helpful.

              But I've gotten better over the years at doing a quick bit of boneless chicken in the frying pan (a little olive oil; dredge the chicken in a seasoned (Italian works well) breadcrumb, heat the oil, put the chicken in the frying pan) and within 20 minutes, you've got some chicken.  At the same time, take a potato, poke some holes in it and stick it in the microwave for 5 or 6 minutes.  For a veggie, fresh is best, frozen is OK, canned less so.  But if you're rushed, frozen or canned is better than no veggie.  That's a fast, easy dinner in less than 20 minutes.  Do the same with ground meat to make a hamburger (bread optional).  Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  

              Now, are these fabulous, gourmet meals?  No, but they're quick and pretty decent and still cheaper than going out.  
              Oh, and sometimes breakfast for dinner works too (making pancakes, eggs, etc.).

              Just my two cents.....

          •  For lasagna, buy the quick noodles (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ThatPoshGirl, pale cold, asym

            Unless you're willing to spend a lot of time boiling, the quick noodles significantly cuts down on prep time and is easier as well. If you're willing to spend about $30, I like The New Best Recipe from the folks at America's Test Kitchen. That thing is written like an Organic Syntheses paper. Everything works because of extensive experimentation and checking and they tell you why they did what they did. They also take into consideration things like prep time and difficulty level and many recipes have a fancy version and a quicker, simpler version that's just about as good.

          •  Walk, then run (6+ / 0-)

            Learn to make lasagna with pre-made noodles, then work your way up to homemade ones. You're overwhelming yourself with perfectionism, m'dear. :)

          •  Lasagna is easy: (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ThatPoshGirl, Chaoslillith, jacey

            you don't have to cook the noodles, just lay them down in a baking dish - a 9x12 oblong casserole works well.  

            You start with:

            1 pound of lasagna noodles, not cooked
            1 pound of ground beef or shredded chicken
            4 cups of marinara sauce
            2 pounds of shredded cheeses

            Pour on a layer of marinara sauce (spaghetti sauce works, too),

            put down one layer of noodles,

            pour on more sauce,

            layer on some browned ground beef or shredded chicken,

            then a layer of shredded cheese (I use a blend of cheddar, mozzarella, asiago, provolone, and romano),

            then put down another row of uncooked lasgana noodles, more sauce, more meat, more cheese -

            repeat until you're ay the top of the baking dish, and finish off with the cheese layer. I usually get 3 layers of each.

            Cover it with foil if the casserole doesn't have a lid.

            Put it in the pre-heated oven at 375ºF and bake for half an hour.

            Remove the lid/foil and bake another 15 - 20 minutes.

            This should give you 6 servings of lasagna - it freezes well, so you can eat one serving, freeze 4 and have the last serving for lunch or tomorrow's dinner.

            If you'd rather use ricotta cheese (I hate ricotta cheese), use 1 1/2 pounds of that instead of the mixed shredded cheese.  You can add spinach to it, cooked vegetables, and use a creamy cheese sauce or bechamel sauce instead of the tomato sauce. Lasagna is a very forgiving dish to make.

            All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

            by Noddy on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 01:48:35 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I personally hate the cream sauces, (0+ / 0-)

              but that's just my taste.

              I did learn a long time ago that adding extra liquid if you don't want to use the no-boil noodles and cooking for a bit longer will do nicely - but I can't remember how much extra liquid.

              Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

              by loggersbrat on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 04:27:55 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  I've never made my own pasta :-) n/t (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ThatPoshGirl

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 02:02:51 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I have a great black bean lasagna recipe (0+ / 0-)

          if anyone wants it....salsa instead of sauce, and sour cream on the side!! LOL!

          mittens=edsel. no matter how much money is spent to promote it, if the product sucks, no one will buy it.

          by wewantthetruth on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:41:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Good Eats/Alton Brown (7+ / 0-)

        Funny TV, and you'll learn a lot.

        If you have an xmas list, ask for cooking stuff from your family for xmas.

        Also, let friends and relatives know you're interested in getting into cooking... they may have extra pots etc they don't want or need any longer that they'll happily gift you.

        A good book I recommend: "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman.

        I did some cooking when I was a kid, but mostly it's me being self-taught over the years, slowly getting more competent and creative.

        Rather than go all in, pick one dish you'd like to learn to cook, and do it. Could be something simple like a chicken breast or a pasta dish. Then, find another. :-)

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:29:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Soup and chili in a can is EZ!! That's 1 meal and (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ThatPoshGirl, Bryce in Seattle

        1 more into an airtight tupperware/ish container in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch or dinner.  Chop up some onions or red/green peppers and plop them in the same pan.  

        Put the top on it, put it on one of those round black things on top of that "stove" thing in the kitchen, turn the dial (look at the little picture to get the right dial) up to Medium and hang around for 5-8 minutes.  

        Do other little things like wash the cutting board and knife, stir the stuff every minute or 3, when it's steaming at you or just getting bubbly, take it off - and turn off burner!!

        Pour into a bowl and enjoy.  Maybe sprinkle some grated cheese on top (chili).  Get a $2-3 dollar bag of healthy chips (I don't do generic crap) or some of your own awesome bread.  Voilà, dinner.

        :o)

        Great short rant!

        The GOP says you have to have an ID to vote, but $ Millionaire donors should remain anonymous?

        by JVolvo on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:36:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  You can do this (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ThatPoshGirl, Bryce in Seattle

        Do you have two pots, a little one and a big one? How about one biggish pot, a bowl, and a microwave? If you do, you're golden.

        OK, get a jar of spaghetti sauce and some dried pasta, whatever shape you like. Get some salad greens in a bag. Buy a bottle of salad dressing.

        Boil some water in your pot, maybe five inches deep with a bit of salt. (Put the top on the pot when you boil water; it's faster.) When the water is really, really boiling, when it's roiling in the pot, dump in a quarter of the pasta. Set your timer for however long the package says-- it'll probably be about ten minutes.

        Meanwhile, put some of the salad greens in a big bowl. Add some dressing. Stir it up.

        Then put some of the spaghetti sauce in a bowl. Put it in the microwave. Zap it for 45 seconds to a minute, just enough to warm it up.

        When the timer beeps, drain the spaghetti. Put it on your plate. Put the sauce on top. Serve yourself some salad. Yum!

      •  I've been single off and on for 10 years (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ThatPoshGirl, Chaoslillith, Sychotic1

        love to cook. as to your comment on tough to cook for one, I either cut back the recipe or cook for four and freeze the extra. I find cooking to be therapeutic and cathartic!! a glass of wine or two. :)

        cooking at home also allows the opportunity to eat healthier if one wants to (not suggesting you do/don't!!).

        healthier cooking, fewer health issues, fewer medical costs.

        challenging to do so? yep, but can be done and can be fun.

        mittens=edsel. no matter how much money is spent to promote it, if the product sucks, no one will buy it.

        by wewantthetruth on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:38:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Try a slow cooker (4+ / 0-)

        Slow cookers range in prices, some are expensive, some relatively cheap. The nice thing about them are how user friendly they are. You chop some things up, toss them in and push a button then forget about it for a while. Hours later you have an awesome dish like beef stew, chili soup or homemade spaghetti sauce (although some items like onions and meats might take some prep like sauteing first).

        The great thing about a slow cooker is that it is pretty much fool proof, won't burn, won't overcook, doesn't take much finesse and the ingredients for most recipes are usually inexpensive. The food that it makes also usually freezes well. Save plastic containers that come with other food, like cottage cheese/yogurt containers (the big cookie dough containers are great) and then divide up your slow cooking meal into those containers and freeze them. Be sure to tape a label to the top telling you what it is and when you made it. This makes a great time saver, making a meal is time consuming, so if you make a big batch of something you like and freeze portions, you can make a stockpile of easy to fix meals. Be sure you make meals with plenty of veggies when possible, but combine with veggies on the site when needed (chili for example is good with raw carrot sticks and celery sticks).

        Borrow a slow cooker recipe book from the library, try some recipes, copy/scan the ones you really like. The library is a great resource for all kinds of recipe books.

        "If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again." Groucho Marx

        by Ruh Roh on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 12:43:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  my daughter is in the same predicament. (3+ / 0-)

        I have always thought that there ought to be a way to "share" unusual ingredients among several folks. Like a singles/couples ingredient coop.

        Don't forget the local library-- they usually have many basic cooking for one or two cookbooks, and not all of them call for stuff like turmeric.

        •  Speaking as the aforementioned daughter... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          avsp

          buy equipment one piece at a time second hand, and don't listen to your foodie friends if you have any.  Something I'm learning from mama avsp is one must learn how to cook before one begins to infuse rice with saffron and/or roll one's own fresh pasta.  Seriously.  Don't over-do it, and don't pick a recipe that's going to kick you in the teeth with exactly precise instructions and spice/herb ratios and junk.  Simple food...quick, easy, and surprisingly good for you!

          PS:  @avsp:  hey look, this time I rec'd you AND replied to your comment!  :-D

      •  I hear ya (4+ / 0-)

        At one time I lost Everything. Literally.
        I scrounged at the thrifts, friends and family gave me gently used castoffs.

        I got spices a the dollar store.

        seriously, until things got better.... I also found that friends and family  can split items that are purchased.
        Hang in there.
        I have much sympathy and understand that some can be  kinda bossy , but......
        Don't assume that all of us are sitting with "cupboards full of ingredients and tools". You would be shocked at how old school my kitchen is. my mum's 50 yr old wear ever pots work fine.

        I made dinner when I lived in my car. Had campfires at the beach with a pack of hotdogs a bag of buns and condiment packets collected all surreptitiously like.   LOL

        I can make dinner(and have done)  with dumpster castoffs.
        recipes are all over the net with how to's.

        Not saying you need to do as I do. You have different circumstances, of course.
        but don't ever assume about others either.

        Fuddle Duddle--- Pierre Trudeau.... Canadian politics at......A Creative Revolution

        by pale cold on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 01:04:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Estate sales (3+ / 0-)

        You can get practically new cookware and utensils and dishes for very little.  I was at an estate sale last weekend where they had a complete 10 pc set of Paula Deen porcelain cookware for $10, still in the box, unused. Utensils, bread machines, blenders, dishes, even microwaves and Kitchenaid mixers...

        You might also want to check out these DKos diaries:

        Culture of the Kitchen Part IV:  Food Storage
        Culture of the Kitchen, Part V: Salvaging Food
        Culture of the Kitchen Part VI: Shopping on a Tight Budget
        Culture of the Kitchen Part VII:  Pantry Management
        Culture of the Kitchen Part XVIII; Simple Cooking Skills
        Basic Culinary Definitions, parts I-VII
        Provident Gourmet

        Check out these books from your library (why buy them until you've made sure you really want to own them?):

        How to Boil Water by the Food Network
        No More Takeout:  a Visual Do-It-Yourself Guide to Cooking
        Betty Crocker Cooking Basics
        Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Cooking
        Everything Restaurant Cookbook (to duplicate your favorite take-out foods - most are really easy)

        And then you can check out the "Top Secret", "America's Most Wanted", "CopyKat Recipes" series of cookbooks that offer duplicate and copycat recipes of most of the restaurant dishes.

        All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

        by Noddy on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 01:31:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I am a lot like you and what I subsist on (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ThatPoshGirl

        when I cook is omelets, my son calls them mOmelets I made them so often.  Eggs, cheese (preshredded if you are really lazy) garlic, onion (pre-cut if you are reeeely lazy), mushrooms (you know what I am about to say), bell peppers (check) and olive oil or butter to cook it i up in.

        I also like to buy that simply potatoes and cook them in as well.  

        As for implements, spatula, cheap little frying pan, bowl or plate, and fork....cheese shredder and knife if you are less lazy and/or more frugal than me.

        For a while there, I had three pans and three spatulas to cut down on dishwasher runs.  

        "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

        by Sychotic1 on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 02:49:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Save jars and lids (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ThatPoshGirl

        put leftovers in the jars and store them in the fridge. If you make four servings, you should eat one a day for three more days.

        My best large cooking pot (a 4 qt 'Lo-Heet') I picked up at a thrift store for 50 cents. I use it for stew, popcorn, pasta, soup, and, along with a colander that fits inside, steaming almost anything.

        Things that wind up in jars in my refrigerator: rice, pork and beans, stew. I cook up a large batch and put it in jars as soon as it is cool enough to handle. I heat it up by steaming it (still in the jar) in my colander/Lo-Heet pot combination, with a cup or so of water (not quite enough to touch the bottom of the jar.) If you don't have a colander, I suppose some kind of trivet to put the jar on, or even a layer of clean gravel would serve. I generally heat the pot for five minutes (gets the water boiling) then simmer for 10 minutes, then let it sit with the heat off for another 10 minutes. You'll need a couple of hot pads to handle the hot jar, and let the jar cool off before trying to wash it.

        I'd also recommend looking for slow cookers/crock pots at thrift stores, too. You can probably get one for under five bucks. Cut up root veggies (potatoes, carrots, onions) and cut up beef, pork or chicken, with a bit of pasta sauce makes a nice stew recipe. Put it in the pot in the morning, set on low, it's ready when you come home from work.

        In the beginning, write down what you put in the crock pot, and adjust the amounts next time you make it.

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 02:56:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The basic utensils you need don't cost $100. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ThatPoshGirl

        Go to Goodwill, garage sales, craigslist and especially freecycle, if freecycle exists in your town. You should be able to outfit yourself for $15 or $20. At garage sales, pots and pans and cooking utensils are just one step up from clothes in terms of how poorly they sell, so they're usually dirt cheap.

        It's rough cooking for one. Mostly a matter of willpower. With two or more you at least have some appreciation coming back at you when you serve the meal. Not to mention someone else to do the dishes.

        But there's a lot out there that's easy to cook once and reheat through the week.

        After you've got your basic pots and pans, look for a slow cooker. I've seen them for free many times, and for cheap ($30 or less) all the time. They rearrange your cooking schedule, and that can be annoying, but they also cook for you while you're at work, and make you great leftover dishes.

        And search the food blogs out there for the people teaching, or teaching themselves, the basics. You'll get some great recipes that way, too. There are also plenty of food-for-one type bloggers out there - it's not an uncommon problem these days.

        Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.

        by rcbowman on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 04:30:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Try this site: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ThatPoshGirl

        http://www.veganlunchbox.com/...

        You can pick from whatever ingredients you have on hand. I've made about 4 and they were all good.

        Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

        by JamieG from Md on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 04:40:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Cookbook suggestion (0+ / 0-)

        Look for cookbooks with the word "Student" in the title.  Those are designed to be cheap, use simple ingredients, and be only 1 or 2 servings.  I recommend the Starving Student's Vegetarian Cookbook.  There's a non-vegi version as well.

        "If you defeat a thousand opponents, you still have a thousand opponents. If you change a thousand minds, you have a thousand allies"

        by Donkey Hotey on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 05:26:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Don't bother with gourmet cookbooks (0+ / 0-)

        Get a copy of Fannie Farmer - she literally wrote the book on good plain cooking. I still draw 80% of my cooking from Fannie, and I've been cooking for 60 years.

        She also explains in considerable detail what to do and how to do it. (The older editions are even better at this.)

        Note: most recipes can be halved as well as doubled, as long as you can work out the math. Some aren't worth halving (anything that requires "1 egg", or a recipe for one pie crust).

        Hit up Goodwill, yard sales, Freecycle, friends for pots and pans - you don't have to have a fancy matching set to get started. You can go for quite a long while with just one large and one small saucepan, one medium size frying pan, two or three graduated bowls, and a few inexpensive baking pans. Just make sure they're clean and in good shape, and don't sweat the looks otherwise. You can always add more items one at a time as you go.

        As for herbs and spices and things, a few basics will take you a long way (and a green thumb, if you have or can develop it, will help). Salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, onion and garlic powder/salt/dried/oil, and a few other stand-bys you have tried and know you like. Don't waste money on fancy stuff unless you have tried it and know you like it (I LOATHE saffron and won't touch the stuff). I grow my own basil - it's a relative of mint and very easy to grow as long as it can get enough sun and water. (Basil IS a water-hog and won't tolerate as much drought as most mints, so keep that in mind.) For that matter mint in general is extremely easy and will stand for a lot of neglect.

        You can freeze quite a lot of things for surprisingly long periods, as long as you have freezer room. Then you don't have to worry so much about "how well does it keep?"

        If it's
        Not your body,
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        And it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 09:22:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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