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Salt, fat, acid, heat : mastering the elements of good cooking
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Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat Growing up, I thought salt belonged in a shaker at the table, and nowhere else. I never added it to food, or saw Maman add it to food. When my aunt Ziba, who had a well-documented taste for salt, sprinkled it onto her saffron rice at the table each night, my brothers and I giggled. We thought it was the strangest, funniest thing in the world. "What on earth," I wondered, "can salt do for food?" I associated salt with the beach, where I spent my childhood seasoned with it. There were the endless hours in the Pacific, swallowing mouthful after mouthful of ocean water when I misjudged the waves. Tidepooling at twilight, my friends and I often fell victim to the saltwater spray while we poked at anemones. And my brothers, chasing me on the sand with giant kelp, would tickle and taunt me with its salty, otherworldly tassels whenever they caught up to me. Maman always kept our swimsuits in the back of our blue Volvo station wagon, because the beach was always where we wanted to be. She was deft with the umbrella and blankets, setting them up while she shooed the three of us into the sea. We'd stay in the water until we were starving, scanning the beach for the sun-faded coral-and-white umbrella, the only landmark that would lead us back to Maman. Wiping saltwater from our eyes, we beelined to her. Somehow, Maman always knew exactly what would taste best when we emerged: Persian cucumbers topped with sheep's milk feta cheese rolled together in lavash bread. We chased the sandwiches with handfuls of ice-cold grapes or wedges of watermelon to quench our thirst. That snack, eaten while my curls dripped with seawater and salt crust formed on my skin, always tasted so good. Without a doubt, the pleasures of the beach added to the magic of the experience, but it wasn't until many years later, working at Chez Panisse, that I understood why those bites had been so perfect from a culinary point of view. While bussing tables during the first year I worked at Chez Panisse, the closest I usually got to the food was at tasters, when the cooks made each dish for the chef to critique before service. With a menu that changed daily, the chef needed tasters to ensure that his or her vision was realized. Everything had to be just right. The cooks would tinker and adjust until satisfied; then they'd hand over the dishes to the floor staff to taste. On the tiny back porch, a dozen of us would hover over the plates, passing them around until we'd all had a bite of everything. It was there that I first tasted crisp deep-fried quail, tender salmon grilled in a fig leaf, and buttermilk panna cotta with fragrant wild strawberries. Often, the powerful flavors would haunt me throughout my shift. Once I developed culinary aspirations, Chris Lee, the chef who'd eventually take me under his wing, suggested that I pay less attention to what was happening on the porch during tasters, and more to what was happening in the kitchen. The language the chefs used, how they knew when something was right--these were clues about how to become a better cook. Most often, when a dish fell flat, the answer lay in adjusting the salt. Sometimes it was in the form of salt crystals, but other times it meant a grating of cheese, some pounded anchovies, a few olives, or a sprinkling of capers. I began to see that there is no better guide in the kitchen than thoughtful tasting, and that nothing is more important to taste thoughtfully for than salt. One day the following year, as a young cook in the prep kitchen, I was tasked with cooking polenta. I'd tasted polenta only once before coming to Chez Panisse, and I wasn't a fan. Precooked and wrapped in plastic like a roll of cookie dough, it was flavorless. But I'd promised myself that I would try everything at the restaurant at least once, and when I tasted polenta for the second time, I couldn't believe that something so creamy and complex could share a name with that flavorless tube of astronaut food. Milled from an heirloom variety of corn, each bite of the polenta at Chez Panisse tasted of sweetness and earth. I couldn't wait to cook some myself. Once the chef, Cal Peternell, talked me through the steps of making the polenta, I began cooking. Consumed by the fear of scorching and ruining the entire humongous pot--a mistake I had seen other cooks make--I stirred maniacally. After an hour and a half, I'd added in butter and Parmesan, just as Cal had instructed me. I brought him a spoonful of the creamy porridge to taste. At six foot four, Cal is a gentle giant with sandy-blond hair and the driest of wits. I looked expectantly up at him with equal parts respect and terror. He said, in his signature deadpan, "It needs more salt." Dutifully, I returned to the pot and sprinkled in a few grains of salt, treating them with the preciousness I might afford, say, gold leaf. I thought it tasted pretty good, so I returned to Cal with a spoonful of my newly adjusted polenta. Again, a moment's consideration was all he needed to know the seasoning was off. But now--to save himself the trouble and time, I imagine--he marched me back to the pot and added not one but three enormous palmfuls of kosher salt. The perfectionist in me was horrified. I had wanted so badly to do that polenta justice! The degree to which I'd been off was exponential. Three palmfuls! Cal grabbed spoons and together we tasted. Some indescribable transformation had occurred. The corn was somehow sweeter, the butter richer. All of the flavors were more pronounced. I'd been certain Cal had ruined the pot and turned my polenta into a salt lick, but no matter how I tried, the word salty did not apply to what I tasted. All I felt was a satisfying zing! with each mouthful. It was as if I'd been struck by lightning. It'd never occurred to me that salt was anything more than pepper's sidekick. But now, having experienced the transformative power of salt for myself, I wanted to learn how to get that zing! every time I cooked. I thought about all of the foods I'd loved to eat growing up--and that bite of seaside cucumber and feta, in particular. I realized then why it had tasted so good. It was properly seasoned, with salt. Excerpted from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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  New York Times Review

ANYONE WHO LIKES TO COOK probably walks around the kitchen accompanied by a chorus of instructions gleaned from years of standing stove-side with Grandma or sitting couch-side with Ina. The best cookbooks play a role too - and the measure of a successful one comes down to this: How long does it stay with you? How long do you walk around with the author's voice in your head? This spring, more than a few pass that test, needling us not only to, say, use more salt, but reminding us about the meaning and value of home-cooked meals. One thing is very clear when it comes to the kitchen spirit sitting on your shoulder: You want that spirit to speak with authority. Joe Beddia, owner of Philadelphia's Pizzeria Beddia, a perennial entry in whatever "Best Pizza in America" story is showing up in your Facebook feed, has no problem on that front. It takes a certain kind of confidence to open a pizzeria with no phone, no seating, no bythe- slice ordering and no employees except the guy behind the cash register. The recipe offerings in Beddia's cookbook manifesto PIZZA CAMP: Recipes From Pizzeria Beddia (Abrams, $29.95), like the items on the menu at his pizzeria, are simple and targeted. His no-cook sauce (uncooked is crucial, he argues, since a concentrated ragu or tomato sauce will overwhelm everything) calls for four ingredients, and one of them is garlic, listed with the command not to buy the pre-peeled kind from China, "for crying out loud!" Beddia isn't afraid to be opinionated about your kitchen state of mind either: "Turn offyour phone," he writes in his dough recipe. "Making dough should be a calming meditative process and a great time to think of new ideas about pizza, or about life in general." Or about his stunning asparagus, onion and lemon white pizza made with a fennel-herb spring cream. Or that dough, which takes 24-plus hours to ferment and proof, but yields a yeasty never-fail crust that will be the only one you'll need from this point forward. PRINCESS PAMELA'S SOUL FOOD COOKBOOK: A Mouth- Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes (Rizzoli, $30) reminds us of an important lesson on every one of its pages: Cooking for people, feeding people, being proud of what you're feeding people, can be a powerful antidote to the ills of the world. Pamela Strobel's book, first published by Signet in a bare-bones paperback almost 50 years ago and now reissued with an introduction by the Southern food historians and cookbook authors Matt Lee and Ted Lee, represents a definitive collection of African-American cooking from the 1920s and '30s - hoe cake, cracklins, smothered pork chops, scrapple that calls for pig's feet, "Sauce Beautiful," made from a base of peach preserves and recommended alongside fried chicken. The recipes are short and written conversationally, often with minimal specifics about oven temperatures or cooking times. More important, though, the recipes offer a springboard from which the author can share a progressive worldview shaped by a lifetime of adversity. Strobel was on her own from age 10, after her mother died. As a teenager, she migrated north from Spartanville, S.C., to New York by way of North Carolina, using the only skill she had, cooking, to earn a living. It was a considerable skill, though, and when paired with a personality as magnetic as hers, it turned her into a New York institution. Her first restaurant, the Little Kitchen, opened in 1966. The place was devoted to Southern home cooking and an evening at the restaurant "ended in either rapture . . . or in ruin," according to the celebrities and insiders lucky enough to gain entrance. A whiffof entitlement from any guest was enough reason to be kicked out, and that was part of the allure. "Strobel had rules of decorum," the Lees write, "which protected her primacy in her restaurant and allowed her to construct evenings for people that were personal and special." Opposite each recipe in her book - first published three years after she opened the Little Kitchen - she offers a poem or remark that captures what it must've felt like to find herself in this position, thriving among the fanciest people in the toughest city in the world. Opposite two pie recipes, Angel and Molasses, she offers: "A woman runnin' a business got no business lettin' a man run her. It become a hand-to-mouth existence, with her hand to his mouth." Opposite the recipes for hash browns and oven fries: "This social type of woman she asked me if I read Ess-ko-fee-yay, and I told her I'd catch it when they made a movie out of it." What do you picture when you think of dinner at home? Those of us whose minds don't immediately default to Fresh Direct's prepared menu section might see the same thing our parents' generation saw: namely, the holy trinity of meat, vegetable, starch. According to DINNER: Changing the Game (Clarkson Potter, $35), by Melissa Clark, this is a problem. The way we're cooking for ourselves at home has yet to catch up with the way we order in restaurants (sharing entrees, combining small plates) and is only minimally taking advantage of ingredients once considered exotic, like preserved lemons and pomegranate molasses, that are now readily accessible in our hyper-evolved food culture. On the new frontier, Clark argues, we should ditch the idea of a composed plate with three distinct elements. Why not start with a bowl of grains, maybe topped with corn, black beans and avocado or fried tofu and kimchi? What's wrong with a baguette and an assortment of spreads like walnut-ty carrot muhammara, beet labneh or pea guacamole? Let me tell you: Absolutely nothing. Clark's book - shot by Eric Wolfinger, the LeBron James of food photography - seems to solve every dinner problem from the rote "It's 6:00 - what do I make for the kids?" to the headscratching "What do I make for my fancy friends?" Here's the crazy thing, though: Often the answer to both questions is the same recipe. This is because Clark, a natural teacher who writes the popular "A Good Appetite" column for this newspaper and is the author or co-author of over three dozen cookbooks, can elevate the simplest recipe with an ingredient or technique that ever-so-slightly broadens your horizons. Before you realize it, you're oneclicking harissa on Amazon and wondering why you never saw the halloumi sitting right there next to the feta in the supermarket. Another notable entry in the Everyday genre is TARTINE ALL DAY: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook (Lorena Jones/Ten Speed, $40), by Elisabeth Prueitt, who, alongside her husband, Chad Robertson, makes up the team behind San Francisco's legendary Tartine bakery and food empire. In this book - the first from the Robertson-Prueitt world to include all-purpose cooking along with the rustic breads and pastries Tartine fans would expect - Prueitt traffics in the simple-but-sophisticated culinary vocabulary we're used to seeing in the Chef Cooks at Home category. The difference here is that Prueitt comes at it from the glutenfree angle, and in a way that doesn't feel upending or intrusive. Maybe this is because she discovered her intolerance long before gluten-free eating was trendy and while she was running one of the most beloved baking institutions in the country, forcing her to dive deep into the ever widening world of non-wheat flours and starches. Her search for fluffy gluten-free cornbread led her to a combination of millet flour and masa harina, the cornmeal that has undergone "nixtamalization," a process that makes corn softer and more nutritious. Her banana bread is made with a mixture of three alt-flours (oat, almond and brown rice) as well as chia seeds in order to take advantage of their moisture- lending properties. Wheat-free buckwheat shows up in chocolate madeleines and crepes, more authentically known as galettes in Brittany, where they provide the foundation of a simple meal when paired with sautéed mushrooms and an egg. In other words, for anyone interested in exploring the modern baker's pantry - whether glutenfree or merely adventurous - Prueitt is the one you want holding your hand. After reading DINNER CHEZ MOI: 50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and Entertaining (Little, Brown, $25), by Elizabeth Bard, you might wonder why you never thought of betweenmeal hunger as foreplay, which, according to Bard, an American living in Provence, is how the French manage to eat all those croque monsieurs and stay so trim. Though the French-Do-It-Better premise of this book is nothing new, its structure - 50 French secrets to joyful eating, accompanied by fresh, simple recipes with lots of chatty sidebars - is refreshing and ridiculously readable. In addition to that foreplay secret (Secret No. 38: "Enjoy Being Hungry. . . . Fifty percent of pleasure is anticipation"), there's a very basic one: "Shop well, cook simple" ("If you concentrate your energy . . . on buying high-quality meat, fish and vegetables, you won't need to cover them up"). Secret No. 26 recommends cooking a whole fish, not fillets, as the ultimate quick weeknight dinner ("the protective skin makes high-heat methods, like broiling or grilling, a real option"). Perhaps most logical, Secrets Nos. 34, 35, 36 respectively: "Sit down," "Eat together," "Put it on a plate." In the hands of someone less likable, the conceit could come across as gimmicky at best, arrogant at worst, but Bard's recipes are both approachable and presented in context - this classic yogurt cake is the first cake most French kids learn to make; these orange-and-anise-flavored lamb shanks are her never-fail dinner party main course; this croque monsieur is her favorite family dinner - which helps keep it real. So do the references to Bruce Springsteen and frosting in a can. Also in the read cover-to-cover department, SALAD FOR PRESIDENT: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists (Abrams, $35), by Julia Sherman, which earns its kitchen shelf real estate as much for the artist interviews as for the salads she's made a career of curating for her blog and, occasionally, museum rooftop gardens. One thing is for sure: You won't find many cookbooks that address the behavior of William Wegman's famously photographed Weimaraners preceding a recipe for his charoset; or Tauba Auerbach discussing font design as a lead-in to her shredded brussels sprout salad with lemony almonds and shaved apple. If the leap seems large, Sherman would like us to think about it this way: Curating a salad is just another form of expressing oneself. So she encourages us to "think like an artist: to steal ideas, break rules and find something spectacular in the everyday." Hence: little gems with crispy pancetta and green Caesar dressing, flank steak with bean sprouts and kimchi-miso dressing. If everyday spectacular is a genre, she's nailed it. SHAKE SHACK: Recipes and Stories (Clarkson Potter, $26), by Randy Garutti and Mark Rosati, is what you might call onbrand. I.e., it's exactly the book you want it to be. Yes, you'll find at-home instructions for replicating all your favorite orders - from their craggy-edged smashed Californiastyle burger to the vanilla custard Concretes - but, in typical Shack fashion, you'll also come away feeling like (a) you want to apply for a job there; (b) now is the time to join the "Maker" revolution . . . mustard, relish, jam, anything; (c) you're somehow part of something way bigger than burgers and fries. Inspired by the drive-ins of his St. Louis youth, the restaurateur Danny Meyer started this blockbuster burger chain with a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in 2001 in order to create "community wealth," and he succeeded, overseeing a company that made people unspeakably happy with his "fine casual" burger-and-shakes fare. Garutti, the Shake Shack chain's C.E.O., and its culinary director, Rosati (with an assist from the veteran editor Dorothy Kalins), tell the whole story, highlighting the do-gooder staff, the adoring Instagramming customers and a recurring "local hero" sidebar that pays tribute to the suppliers who make it all taste so good. Though cooks should know that translating the Shack experience at home is going to be a bit elusive (unless you have easy access to all those local heroes), there are enough legitimate tricks of the trade to up your game at the griddle: Use Martin's potato rolls; toast and butter them with a brush; grind muscle meat, not economy cuts; invert a strainer over your frying burger to control fat splatter; American cheese takes exactly 45 seconds to melt on a patty; add baking soda to your fried chicken dredge; invest in a Ushaped crinkle cutter; and on and on. And, it has to be said, no lines. Samin Nosrat's SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking (Simon & Schuster, $35) is an exhaustively researched treatise on the four pillars of successful cooking. If you can train yourself to recognize the proper balance between salt, fat and acid, then apply the right kind of heat, you'll churn out simple, sophisticated fare in the spirit of Berkeley's Chez Panisse, where Nosrat started out. The recipes come almost as an afterthought to the teaching portion of the program - they officially begin on page 224 - and that's the point. Above all, Nosrat wants you to learn to trust yourself, to pay attention to sensory cues and not rely on the oven dial or the recipe's cooking time to decide when your food is ready. Better to use your own palate to measure the balance of flavors in a tomato sauce than a recipe written by someone using different tomatoes from a different farm. There are no photos accompanying her recipes, but the illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton further the mission, with wheels like "The World of Acid," a cheat sheet for matching the typical cooking and garnishing acids for over two dozen international cuisines. There's a huge amount of technical information crammed into this book, but the lessons that come straight from the Chez Panisse kitchen tend to be the ones you hold onto. A chef changes the way Nosrat thinks about acid when he tastes a perfect velvety carrot soup and tells her to add a transformative teaspoon of vinegar. ("While salt enhances flavors, acid balances them.") Nosrat recalls learning how to make a simple polenta in her early years, when Cal Peternell (another Chez Panisse chef-turnedcookbook- author) keeps insisting she add more salt, finally coming over to the pot to throw three palmfuls in himself. Three palmfuls. Try getting that image out of your head every time you're stove-side, hovering over a pot of virtually anything. This spring brought the usual crop of vegetable-focused collections, one of which might have the potential to rearrange your culinary worldview. SCRAPS, WILT AND WEEDS: Turning Wasted Food Into Plenty (Grand Central Life & Style, $35) is written by Tama Matsuoka Wong and the Noma co-founder Mads Refslund, who is on the forefront of the movement to raise awareness about the environmentally devastating amount of food that goes to waste every year. (Globally, we're talking an estimated $750 billion.) The book is organized by ingredient, making it easy to search for ideas to repurpose whatever vegetable is close to liquefying in the crisper. Refslund challenges readers to honor not just the imperfect but the scraps and the pulp. "Instead of slimy fish skin, see crispy umami. Instead of mushy fruit, see succulent fermented glaze." That's how you'll end up telling your children to save their lunchbox apple cores - to be boiled into a stock that will be used in apple scrap cake. Or why you will think twice before discarding the core of a cauliflower - instead of just spiralizing it into noodles, then tossing with pecorino, butter, crème fraÎche and spices for a reimagined cacio e pepe. There are plenty of cheffy moments - he loves grinding dehydrated vegetable pulp into powders to be used just about everywhere - but they're balanced by more approachable solutions, including a chapter on classic recipes that stretch out scraps, which in other cookbooks would simply be categorized as peasant food. As he acknowledges, "This is the way people have lived frugally - to survive - from the beginning of humanity." But it sure is nice to have a Michelin-starred chef giving his take this time around. "If you're looking for 10 Easy Weeknight Dinners for Vegetarians," writes Jeremy Fox in ON VEGETABLES: Modern Recipes for the Home Kitchen (Phaidon, $49.95), "this book will not be of much use to you." Who would it be of use to? Serious cooks who revere produce; adventurers; foragers; design nerds - purely as an object, the book is stunning; and, well, definitely Mads Refslund, with whom Fox shares more than the usual chef's disdain for waste. "Throwing away food embarrasses me," Fox writes. "It makes me feel like a hack chef." Fox, who may be the furthest thing from a hack, punched the clock at a handful of famous kitchens in California, most notably Manresa in Los Angeles, before becoming the chef at the vegetarian mecca Ubuntu in Napa. His mission there wasn't unusual - as much as possible, cook with the food you grow - but the dishes were. (Arguably his most famous: a salad of peas with white chocolate.) David Chang, René Redzepi, Thomas Keller and all the right people flocked to Napa, the reviewers gushed and the awards piled up, but this only exacerbated Fox's lifelong battle with anxiety, leading to an early flameout and a few years of rock-bottom darkness when he almost stopped cooking. ("A turnip looked like a stranger.") The book is populated with dishes that contain time-consuming sub-recipes (for, say, sea moss tapenade or cured egg yolk), and it goes without saying that most of the recipes are only worth it if you're working with the best possible produce, but this collection isn't pretending to be anything else. Fox's ultimate goal is to give readers the confidence to expand their idea of what can be done with produce you might have written off- and also to leave us with this truth, whether we're making Fox's caramel black olive paste or Kraftmacaroni and cheese: "Food from a happy kitchen tastes better than food from an unhappy one." Amen. 0 What's your go-to summer cookbook? "In Sweden, most land is public land, so you can cook outside - in the forest or by the water. Niklas Ekstedt explores that phenomenon well in 'Food From the Fire: The Scandinavian Flavours of Open-Fire Cooking.' " - MARCUS SAMUELSSON ONLINE: Don't mind the heat and can't bear to leave the kitchen? For a quick look at 15 more cookbooks, visit JENNY ROSENSTRACH is the author of three cookbooks and writes the blog "Dinner: A Love Story."

  Publishers Weekly Review

In this excellent, accessible cookbook, Nosrat leads readers through the cooking process. She didn't set out to become a chef, but was so moved by her first meal at Chez Panisse that she wrote Chef Alice Waters a letter asking to bus tables. Amazingly, she got the gig, and she jumped into the deep end of the culinary spectrum, soaking up as much knowledge as she could. In even, measured tones, she explains how salt-even the shape of the crystals-can affect a dish's overall flavor as well as specific proteins, how fat results in a food's crispness, how heat influences flavor via caramelization, and, perhaps most importantly, how to balance all these elements when composing a dish or a meal. Basic techniques and recipes, such as Vietnamese cucumber salad and pasta al ragu, prove her points. Over the course of the book, readers will learn how to make the perfect Caesar salad, break down a chicken, boil an egg to the desired doneness, and put those skills to use in creating many other dishes. MacNaughton's whimsical illustrations, charts, and graphs add to the experience. This exceptional debut is sure to inspire greater confidence in readers and enable them to create better meals on their own. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Now a Netflix series! <br> <br> New York Times Bestseller and Winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Best General Cookbook and multiple IACP Cookbook Awards <br> <br> Named one of the Best Books of 2017 by: NPR, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic , The Washington Post , Chicago Tribune , Rachel Ray Every Day , San Francisco Chronicle , Vice Munchies,, Glamour , Eater, Newsday, Minneapolis Star Tribune , The Seattle Times , Tampa Bay Times , Tasting Table, Modern Farmer , Publishers Weekly, and more. <br> <br> A visionary new master class in cooking that distills decades of professional experience into just four simple elements, from the woman declared "America's next great cooking teacher" by Alice Waters.<br> <br> In the tradition of The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything comes Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat , an ambitious new approach to cooking by a major new culinary voice. Chef and writer Samin Nosrat has taught everyone from professional chefs to middle school kids to author Michael Pollan to cook using her revolutionary, yet simple, philosophy. Master the use of just four elements--Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food--and anything you cook will be delicious. By explaining the hows and whys of good cooking, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will teach and inspire a new generation of cooks how to confidently make better decisions in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients, anywhere, at any time.<br> <br> Echoing Samin's own journey from culinary novice to award-winning chef, Salt, Fat Acid, Heat immediately bridges the gap between home and professional kitchens. With charming narrative, illustrated walkthroughs, and a lighthearted approach to kitchen science, Samin demystifies the four elements of good cooking for everyone. Refer to the canon of 100 essential recipes--and dozens of variations--to put the lessons into practice and make bright, balanced vinaigrettes, perfectly caramelized roast vegetables, tender braised meats, and light, flaky pastry doughs.<br> <br> Featuring 150 illustrations and infographics that reveal an atlas to the world of flavor by renowned illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will be your compass in the kitchen. Destined to be a classic, it just might be the last cookbook you'll ever need.<br> <br> With a foreword by Michael Pollan.
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