Under the Table – Mixed Greens Blog http://mixedgreensblog.com Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 17 Nov 2016 02:01:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 What’s really going on in the backyard . . . http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/12/27/local-living/under-the-table/whats-really-going-on-in-your-backyard/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/12/27/local-living/under-the-table/whats-really-going-on-in-your-backyard/#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2008 06:59:46 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=1333 Slugs are up to some serious hanky-pank. Sublime slime.

They inhabit our gardens and savor our edible plants. We, therefore, pay attention to them. We’re firm in our belief that slugs are nasty, the bane of our vegetable gardens, and we’re hopeful their numbers decline as a result of the recent deep freeze – their tiny eggs, though rugged, must be irretrievably chilled right about now. But who knew that they have an enviable love life? Indigenous to the west coast, the mating habits of leopard slugs are worthy of attention. It turns out they’re not so sluggish after all.

Most of us carry on about slugs and never feel the need to clarify why we don’t eat them as M.F.K. Fisher did in her 1937 essay, “Fifty Million Snails”:

“I have eaten several strange things since I was twelve, and I shall be glad to taste broiled locusts and swallow a live fish.  But unless I change very much, I shall never be able to eat a slug.  My stomach jumps alarmingly at the thought of it.
I have tried to be callous about slugs.  I have tried to picture the beauty of their primeval movements before a fast camera, and I have forced myself to read in the Encyclopaedia Britannica the harmless ingredients of their oozy bodies.  Nothing helps.  I have a horror, deep in my marrow, of everything about them.  Slugs are awful, slugs are things from the edges of insanity, and I am afraid of slugs and all their attributes.
But I like snails.  Most people like snails”.

Just when you think you know slugs, and that you’ll never have one on your dinner table, you stumble upon a little porn film about their procreative habits, their finely tuned, choreographed and prolonged flights of love, and you can’t help but feel a circumspect regard.

This video of their prowess in the garden love nest  – and I don’t use the word nest or Kama Sutra lightly – is something to behold. A leopard slug’s backyard bedroom action . . .  enough said, sit back, watch, and be amazed.

Thanks Roz, via your science teacher, for passing this on.

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Kale Catches Cold but Survives (& Obama notes Michael Pollan’s food wisdom) http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/12/22/local-living/under-the-table/kale-catches-cold-but-survives-obama-notes-michael-pollans-food-wisdom/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/12/22/local-living/under-the-table/kale-catches-cold-but-survives-obama-notes-michael-pollans-food-wisdom/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2008 03:03:21 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/12/22/uncategorized/kale-catches-cold-but-survives-obama-notes-michael-pollans-food-wisdom/

Small miracles to be grateful for. Kale survival and Michael Pollan might seem slightly incongruous – maybe they are, but I think there’s a connection. Anticipating last week’s cold snap, we covered some of our lettuce with wool blankets and harvested the rest, then left the brassicas, broccoli and kale, to the cold which, it is said, they love. Fingers crossed, we also left chard to the elements.

kkale & chard in snow 9kkale & chard in snow 5 kkale & chard in snow 6

A week later I peeked into their snowy hibernation, which, by the way, is excellent insulation, and noted that we have a few survivors. (Photos on the next page show their stalwart cold-weather character eight days ago.)

The kale looks fine so far and its flavor might have improved with the cold, at least that’s the theory.  The chard? There’s hope. We read the following in Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest (Binda Colebrook): “I like chard for its winter bulk and early spring rebound.  The ribs aren’t good past fall, but the leaves taste nice.  Mine dies back in northeasters and I cut it down to a nub so that it won’t rot.  It starts growing again in February and lasts ’til May.” We’ll try this, cut back the chard after the thaw and see how it goes.

Taking stock of what we now have in our winter garden that’s edible I see broccoli and kale that look pretty good as well as a large crop of parsley.  Fava beans might have survived for spring, and herbs will probably be fine. That’s it. I know it’s too obvious, but it’s another insight into the necessity of past generations canning vegetables for winter. People got by on what they could grow or had preserved – no running to the store for chard or lettuce from somewhere like Peru, Mexico or California. Potatoes even. They’d better be stored in the cellar or forget about it. If my household were dependent on the garden only at this point we would be left with a few servings of kale, broccoli, and bunches of parsley – actually quite nutritious – to last until spring. Surely we would forage, as people did and more are rediscovering again.  Oh, and there are Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores. Whew.

Anyway, thoughts about our personal food supply lead me to thinking about Pollan and Obama.  I began to think again about what food production meant to my grandmother and about how Michael Pollan is pleading with present generations and administrations to honor our grand- and great-grandmothers’ wisdom about food. (Obama made a reference to Pollan’s NYTimes Farmer In Chief article in a recent Time magazine interview. He’s aware and paying attention.) This Pollan video interview -link below- conducted by ABC’s Nightline a few months ago is well done. His discussion of whole food vs. edible foodlike substances is accessible and interesting. Literally food for thought.   A small action toward sustainability might be to listen and converse with others about Pollan’s ideas – whether or not you agree or disagree, the conversation is important.

Nightline Interview with Michael Pollan: One Man’s Defense of Food, this is interesting for its video footage and Pollan’s profoundly sensible insight – definitely worth your eight minutes.

Bean pot, copper mug & towel 2 Bean pot, copper mug & towel 8 root soup & Xmas fritatta 25 root soup & Xmas fritatta 47 Garden’s bounty just eight days ago – and in this morning’s snow (top of post).

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From the Garden, Chips & Dip http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/12/02/seasons-eatings/chips-from-the-winter-garden-dip/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/12/02/seasons-eatings/chips-from-the-winter-garden-dip/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2008 00:48:53 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/12/02/uncategorized/chips-from-the-winter-garden-dip/ Just when you think you know your chips – the potato, taro, tortilla, corn, Doritos – along comes a cockeyed story from a cousin about making chips from kale. kale chips 7Bean pot, copper mug & towel 2

Skeptical from the start, I made some and they’re a melt in your mouth green sensation. Light crispy morsels of kale, definitely kale. It’s a revelation that I can whip these up in my kitchen. Kale is in its heyday and begging to be eaten fairly regularly right now so I figured the chips were worth a shot, hair-brained idea or not.

kale chips 31 We pair our favorite chips with all kinds of sauces and dips so why not kale chips? When I remembered the sweet roasted pepper dip hanging out in the fridge I scooped in with a couple of still-warm kale crisps. Num. I thought later what a healthy combo, kale chips and sweet pepper dip, each embellished with a little olive oil and not much else. Their nutritional veggie value isn’t compromised.

To Make Kale Chips: I harvested five or six stalks of kale, removed the center stem and cut leaves into potato chip-sized pieces (per cousin Edie’s instructions) and ended up with 5 cups. After making sure leaves were relatively dry I sprinkled the bowlful with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (and a tiny smidge of truffle oil if you have it), a pinch of salt and 1 finely chopped garlic (garlic powder would be fine, maybe better). Toss it all thoroughly, spread out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 325º oven for 20 – 30 minutes. After 20 minutes check kale periodically; when they’re crispy and slightly darkened remove from the oven. kale chips 1

When I saw the kale chips in a bowl I recognized a favorite autumnal treasure, dried leaves. The roasted kale, dried, shriveled and crispy, resemble the season’s spent leaves, except that these are edible and nutritious; and I won’t be collecting and pressing any of them under my heaviest atlas.

One caveat: We found some of the chips to be slightly bitter, though we munched on a plateful throughout the conversation about bitter. Smaller, younger leaves may be better; a frost sometimes boosts the sweet side of Brassicas; or, soaking leaves in warm salty water for half an hour before roasting might be helpful. Other suggestions?

Many dips would work with kale chips, including this Roasted Red Pepper Dip, and if you happen to have Billy’s summer peppers in the freezer, bingo. Roast three olive oiled red peppers in a 450º oven for about 20 minutes/ Remove from the oven when skins are becoming charred/ Cover immediately with a piece of foil and let sit for 20 minutes longer/ Remove charred skins from peppers along with seeds and place in a blender or food processor/ Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon or so of cumin and turmeric, salt & pepper to taste/ Process and adjust flavorings to suit yourself. The kale chips are delicate so the dip shouldn’t be thick, but slightly on the saucy side.

So Edie, apologies for ever doubting kale chips and thank you.

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Food for Thought: An Edible Garden http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/11/10/local-living/under-the-table/food-for-thought-edible-gardens/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/11/10/local-living/under-the-table/food-for-thought-edible-gardens/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2008 14:14:29 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=1198 Many of us are growing food in the backyard, sometimes a few heads of lettuce and kale for winter, sometimes a serious year-round vegetable garden.

You’ll find this video interesting and important to know about if you’ve ever fantasized about your own vegetable garden, even on a small scale. A twenty-first century version of the victory garden is a powerful action to take regarding sustainability at the family table and of the planet. We can grow some of our own, or provide a backyard plot for other urban farmers to plant. Either way, if our edible gardens supplement what farmers produce they’ll still have a daunting task keeping up with the demands of a megatropolis for locally grown food.

Thanks to Cooking Up a Story for another great sustainability-related video: Organic Foods, Backyard Agriculture. (Your Backyard Farmer is the related website)

Fritz Haeg is a designer activist who is promoting edible estates. He wants us to plant food in the front yard instead of grass. Swapping Grass for Grub, a previous MixedGreens post, features his video and website about edible gardening. All food for thought.

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Compassionate Bees Emulate Nation’s Angst http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/11/04/local-living/under-the-table/compassionate-honeybees-emulate-national-angst/ Tue, 04 Nov 2008 00:12:08 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/11/04/uncategorized/compassionate-honeybees-emulate-national-angst/

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Queen Cells in the Hives, Oh No. This recent blog posting at Sunset’s one-block diet site is about bees, but on national Election Day I’m reading between the lines. Check it out. Dontcha think this dissatisfied hive of bees sounds familiar? Anyway, I find the Sunset posting apropos. It reminds me that healthy beehives and a healthy electorate have a few things in common. You could say that our survival depends upon both.

mason bees 19 Standing on a ladder early this spring, I thought I would photograph our industrious, introverted little Mason bees. I was pretty, errr, focused when finally, finally I paid attention to the increasingly fussy hum happening around my head. I rapidly excused myself.

We have fruit trees and are indebted to Mason bees for pollination and abundant annual crops. Presently they’re sleeping harmoniously with one another in their three bee houses attached to the side of the garage. If they could wake up and vote . . . who would be their next queen?

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Rutabaga Groove http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/10/29/seasons-eatings/rutabaga-groove/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/10/29/seasons-eatings/rutabaga-groove/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2008 04:25:16 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/10/29/uncategorized/rutabaga-groove/ You gotta love a food that sounds like a dance, a raunchy one at that. Actually, rutabagas are pretty tame, like a potato, and they have a culinary vocabulary in common: gratins, purees and soup.

IMG_9710 IMG_9724 IMG_9747 Rutabagas are in season, a reason to celebrate for those who eagerly await their return each fall. We’re growing them in our garden and they’re just now ready for harvesting; you’ll find them at farmer’s markets during the next few weeks. Traditionally they’re harvested in the fall and then waxed in order to preserve through the winter. Another Brassica, rutabagas are supposedly a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. Are they a very very close cousin to the turnip? Seems so. They’re also known as Swedish, wax or yellow turnips. (Poppy’s previous post, Getting Down to Brassicas, provides more in-depth brassica information.)

When cooked and pureed they’re silky smooth, earthy in flavor, and slightly sweet like a carrot. Comfort food. Use rutabagas in gratins along with potatoes and in soups to liven and add depth of flavor, or on their own.

This puree is simple and elegant:

Peel and cube rutabagas/ 4 – 5 medium sized will serve four/ boil in salted water until tender/ drain and place back in the pan for mashing or into a food processor/ mash by hand or process, gradually adding warmed milk, cream or buttermilk until consistency is of a soft puree/ stir in a little cheese if you like, gruyere, cheddar or blue are especially good. Not too much though or the rutabaga essence is lost.

A little obscure, but this is a root vegetable worth discovering. We had the luscious puree with steamed rutabaga greens and a piece of salmon from Loki fish. Bon appetite.

Wikipedia, Rutabaga: Prior to pumpkins being readily available in the UK and Ireland (a relatively recent development), swedes/rutabagas were hollowed out and carved with faces to make lanterns for Halloween. Often called “jack o’lanterns”, or “tumshie lanterns” in Scotland, they were the ancient symbol of a damned soul.a mix - - - Oct- 08 24

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Full of Beans, Fresh & Seasonal Shelling Beans http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/10/20/seasons-eatings/fulla-beans-fresh-shelling-beans/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/10/20/seasons-eatings/fulla-beans-fresh-shelling-beans/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2008 06:50:05 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/10/20/uncategorized/fulla-beans-fresh-shelling-beans/

shelling beans 5shelling beans 21shelling beans 38

Shelling beans are available right now at farmers markets. You may have noticed them, beautifully mottled and colorful with long leathery pods. Last year I bought fresh beans already shelled. This year I bought three pounds of Stregonta, with a few other varieties mixed in, from Shelley at Whistling Train Farm and removed the beans from their pods myself. The plan was to make Fresh Beans Gratin.

There’s a sweet period of time between the crisp stage, not desirable for shelling (nor possible), and before the fully dried stage, when beans are still moist, delicate and creamy once cooked.

I arrived home with a gigantic bowlful and thought, damn, now I have to shell these things. But, it went quickly, and I found it satisfying, kind of meditative. Music in the background, a growing pile of fresh beans in the bowl, I was done in about a half an hour. The shelling is not as daunting as it seems, and the larger pods give up their beans easily. It’s a snap. In fact, if beans are actually snappy crisp they’re not ready for shelling. Sometimes leathery and large is a good thing, as it is with these Stregontas. Check Poppy’s recent post, Consume Your Legumes, for some in-depth information about local bean growing.

Freshly shelled beans require something a little more sophisticated, I thought, than my usual dried beans routine which consists of, well, beans, a lot of onion and garlic, maybe a ham hock. This fresh bean gratin is still rustic, but outside the normal beanery realm, for me at least.

The creaminess that the fresh– as opposed to dried – beans exude when cooked is sublime. Fresh beans cook quickly and this recipe comes together easily, then needs about an hour in the oven. It would be wonderful with Italian sausage, or any sausage, if that sounds appealing. The recipe for Fresh Shell Bean Gratin can be found via this direct link to Whistling Train Farm. You’ll need three pounds of shelling beans of any variety, greens of any variety, onion, tomato and garlic. The one thing I did differently was mix a little grated cheese into the breadcrumbs. After all, it is a gratin.

As a kid, whenever I tried to bluff my way out of a pickle, which might have been pretty often, my grandmother would say ‘you’re fulla beans’.

Yes, thank you. a mix - - - Oct- 08 78

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On the Local Table: A Not-So-Wild Shroom, Portobellos http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/10/07/seasons-eatings/on-the-local-table-a-not-so-wild-shroom-portobellos/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/10/07/seasons-eatings/on-the-local-table-a-not-so-wild-shroom-portobellos/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2008 07:13:37 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/10/07/uncategorized/on-the-local-table-a-not-so-wild-shroom-portobellos/ Button mushrooms grow up to become baby bellas, (Criminis), and finally Portobellos.

portobellos 18

Recently we camped and hiked in the Lake O’Hara region of the Canadian Rockies where we wanted to concoct appealing but practical meals at the end of a day’s hiking. The most memorable of those meals involved Portobellos, garlic, grated cheese, and dried pasta which were a snap to carry in a backpack and prepare on our single burner camp stove. We vowed to have it again on the supper table at home where we also appreciate quick and delicious. A great vegetarian supper with a little bread, a little wine. Domesticated? Yes. Tame? Not so much.

We appreciate the Portobello’s ‘meatiness’, but its versatility is worth applauding too. Mushrooms in the pantry and there are myriad possibilities for an interesting meal – with toasty bread, pasta, rice, risotto, pizza, salad, eggs, with a piece of meat, or stuffed and baked. Not a prized wild variety, Portobellos are widely cultivated and readily attainable year-round in the Pacific Northwest. They’re a delectable choice for a local meal if you like mushrooms. A few in my family don’t – this is for those of us who appreciate a good fungus now and then.

portobellos 26

Roast Portobellos in a hot oven or saute’ over high heat. ‘Recipe’ is flexible. I used the three medium-sized Portobellos I had on hand.

Clean mushrooms, trim stems if needed and chop into large or small pieces – whatever suits your intended use. Over high heat, melt four tablespoons of butter with a tablespoon of olive oil (or more oil, less butter is fine too). When oil is piping hot, but not burned, toss in the chopped mushrooms along with finely chopped garlic, rosemary, sage and thyme to taste. Salt & pepper. Allow to brown, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and have your way with these puppies.

Doesn’t hurt at all to splash a little cognac or wine into the mushroom pan near the very end; and I tossed piping hot pasta with a little cream and grated Vache de Vashon cheese from Sea Breeze Farms along with some toasted, crushed hazelnuts. A little something more than the camping meal, this is a good one for vegetarians and omnivores alike. portobellos 25

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Seed + Soil + Ingenuity = Genius http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/09/29/local-living/under-the-table/seed-soil-ingenuity-genius/ Mon, 29 Sep 2008 05:51:05 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/09/29/uncategorized/seed-soil-ingenuity-genius/ Seattleite David Montgomery has won a MacArthur Genius fellowship for his work in geomorphology, a study of geophysical forces and how soil and rivers, the landscape have been altered over time.

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Joan Dye Gussow writes about loss of land in her book, This Organic Life: “Although the lands that feed us are disappearing everywhere, the paving of California takes on special significance because of its unique Mediterranean climate. You can’t grow oranges in Iowa.” She goes on to say that “some of California’s most productive land is no longer threatened because it has been entombed. The beautiful Santa Clara Valley was once producer of nearly 50 percent of the world’s prunes, apricots, and cherries. Aaron Sachs tells us it took only four decades to transform this Valley of Heart’s Delight, with its 132,000 acres of flowering trees, into Silicon Valley.”

Since reading Gussow’s book I’ve been more thoughtful about soil conservation, so David Montgomery’s MacArthur fellowship caught my eye. One of his books, Dirt, is on my list to read. Montgomery is among a growing group of scientist advocates who are telling us that we need to pay attention to the dirt on this planet. We need it to grow our food, literally to survive, and we’re covering it up at an alarming rate, thousands of acres every day.

And then I noticed that another recipient was an urban farmer from Milwaukee. Here’s a link to a NY Times article, An Urban Farmer is Rewarded for his Dream, which tells more about Will Allen and the important work he’s doing. Plenty going on in Seattle too with urban farming; and there’s the work Fritz Haeg is doing to promote edible landscapes. He’s an advocate for replacing all or at least some of our lawns with edibles. Haeg’s book, Edible Estates, is another good one for the perennial book list.

Worthwhile enterprises to think about and small actions to take: growing some food of our own, giving over more urban land to growing food, and acknowledging what loss of soil means on a global scale to farming and survival. We should have bumper stickers, Save the Dirt!

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Below are links to past Mixed Greens postings which relate to soil, seed, urban farming & edible landscapes – all small actions contributing to living more sustainably and perhaps another form of genius right in our own backyards.

In the Garden: Save Some Seeds

Incredible Edible Gardens

Urban Farms Cropping Up Everywhere

In the Garden: the Dirt


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One or Two More Things About Tomatoes http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/09/17/seasons-eatings/tomatoes-one-more-time-two-more-things-about-tomatoes/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/09/17/seasons-eatings/tomatoes-one-more-time-two-more-things-about-tomatoes/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2008 01:35:09 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/09/17/uncategorized/tomatoes-one-more-time-two-more-things-about-tomatoes/

And then that’s enough about tomatoes for this year . . . maybe.  They’re abundant at the moment so I made Gazpacho and dried some.Gazpacho 36

Returned home from vacation a couple of days ago to find tomato plants, finally, laden with ripened tomatoes. They’re late and not as sweet as when they ripen earlier, but I’m grateful. Glad to have these to enjoy now and preserve for later on. I dried a bunch of Sungolds, and made a batch of Gazpacho.

For the Gazpacho I removed the core from about twice as much tomato as cucumber, seeded and peeled, and put them in a food processor (a blender’s fine too). I then added several cloves of garlic, some day-old bread, vinegar and oil, salt and pepper to taste, fresh dill and chives. Gazpacho 28 Pulse until well mixed and that’s it. It’s good for a day or two if kept in the fridge. A bowl of Gazpacho with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt on top is a pretty nice way to eat your vegetables.

This anecdotal version without exact measurements invites us to add whatever sounds good. This past summer the NY Times did a piece called 101 20-Minute Dishes. Numbers 9 – 19 of 101 recipes are vegetables, many in season right now. Check out their recipes for inspiration, and then create your own versions of Gazpacho that are uniquely PNW. What about adding a splash of clam nectar, for example? Or, a bite or two of Dungeness crab on top?

If you have an abundance of tomatoes in your garden – or Farmers Markets will have some for a while longer – you might try drying some. Gazpacho 12 I picked a large pan full of Sungolds (any cherry or smallish tomato will do), cut them in half, laid them cut-side-up on the drying racks and turned on the dryer.

Fourteen hours later, dried tomatoes. Check tomatoes from time to time – when finished, they should be leathery and supple, not crispy. Twelve – fourteen hours is usually about right in our dryer. Timing will undoubtedly vary with different drying systems so check fruit periodically.

Gazpacho 17Gazpacho 20

Fill zip lock bags with a third of a cup or so of dried tomatoes, store in the freezer and they’re ready and waiting for soup, sauce or a bowlful of olive oil sometime this winter. Heavenly. As with all dried fruits, flavors are intensified during the drying process. If it’s possible for a vine-ripened tomato to taste even better it might be the dried variety in the middle of winter (yes, when we’re desperate). Tomato Grazing All Year Long, a previous post, has a little more info about the power of dried tomatoes mid-winter.

Sometime in January these little morsels can bring a warm glow to the table.

Gazpacho 21 Now enough with the tomatoes, I’m beginning to look forward to winter greens and all that squash. Well, sort of.

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