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v. gautam

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  1. To My Most Gracious Princess Dejah, whose adventures on Mars thrilled my young heart way back when , You asked for ideas. I think a writer observed that the essence of these "back of the can" dishes was their liberating effect on the mother. While she might still be chained to the home, her obligatory chains to the stove were unloosed, and she now had some time to call her own. Coming from India, I can deeply appreciate the lessening of physical labor on women, and offering them more control over their own lives. Also, the lowering of the FEAR factor: can I put something delicious on the table? FEAR is & was a MOST potent & DEADLY element ruling the lives of women & children in the generations past & they still do in other places, and I am a witness. We forget the power of these things when poke our gentle fun at Campbell Soup. Between 1950 & 1953 Dr. Lawrence Blood, working at Utah State College, now Utah State University, with Dr. Orson Cannon, were searching for a solution to a dread fungus disease affecting tomato fields, especially processing& soup tomatoes. They would plant more than 25K plants each season in the disease nursery, and watch carefully. Finally, Dr.Cannon found, after Dr.Blood's death, ONE plant surviving the fungus. That provided the first resistance genes for Verticillium Wilt Disease. He named the variety LAWRENCE BLOOD. It became part of the parental lines of every modern tomato that you or I today consume. That includes every soup tomato Campbell's processes. W e cannot conceive today how astonishingly difficult it was to successfully crops at large enough scales to make food costs low; the prevalence of disease, physiological & genetic factors like skin that cracked as the tomato expanded, burst as it ripened, or rotted inthe rain. We take for granted today a commercial tomato & other vegetable crop, but the battles were so very hard won. Dr.Cannon later became the chief of the Campbell tomato breeding program. The TOMATO SOUP led the way for Campbell's conquest of the American kitchen! The red & white can is borrowed from Cornell's colors, with Cornell then & now being a center of tomato research. We sometimes forget the extraordinary history of the USA, which is why I tend to digress to reconnect us with our heritage. No nation or society in history ever has contributed so much wealth or human welfare to humanity as THIS COUNTRY has in ONE SINGLE CENTURY, 1900-2000. We cannot ever forget this, and advances in FOOD TECHNOLOGY like canned soup had something to do with how rapidly the USA developed. People will tease me, and I shall happily accept. So, My Gracious Princess, would you not agree with the thesis that the utility of the Canned Soup Cuisine lies precisely in using what is at hand, and what is frugal, without having to worry about buying any special ingredients. The CANNED SOUP, like the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, is the Spirit of a New Nation. With a patient sigh, it fulfills all the lacunae in our pitiful endeavors. It is spicing, sauce, salt, umami, refrigeration, pest-proof storage and convenience. This is not food for the wealthy or for the fussy, but for those who are deeply grateful for life and the blessings each day brings with it. This is for families who know that food is what you set on the table and there shall be nothing but clean plates and happy faces, basking in the safety of a family and a country. If we have some frozen pollock or any fish, perhaps some flour, even Wondra, and maybe a tiny bit of wine or spirits to neutralize any odor, the fish can be rubbed with a little alcohol, seasoned with (very little) salt,pepper, Wondra, set on bakeware, and covered with a can of Shrimp Bisque. Bake or carefully microwave. Garnish with parsley or herbs. Bake potatoes at the same time or cook rice or egg noodles. Serve with your choice of vegetables. This is bland food. You may add some lemon, Tabasco, whatever you fancy. If you get 1 can of bisque on sale for $1, buy several, & you can zap 2lbs of fish with 1 can. Fish is expensive $ 2.39/lb at Easter sales for pollock in 10lb bags to $4-5/lb for tilapia. I got 4 oz. IQF mahi-mahi at $4/lb, 20 pieces/box. Chicken breast is $1.49/lb per 40lb. box, $1.79/25lb, salad shrimp $88/25lb. White mushroom is $2.66/lb and can be used with the bisque + shirataki noodles, as above as a good diet-friendly dish, along with a separate quick choisum saute, salad, black chickpea salad/casserole or red lentil w/lemon soup. Whole lentils are even better.
  2. Sometimes, I believe we exist in "The Other America" of NYT, WaPO, eG and the like. Then there is the real America, for which go to Roadfood & please(!!)read the comments in the International Sections, particularly the Thai,Indian etc. They are not necessarily amusing, depending where you come from, just as Jewish jokes might well have had an edge of fear and insecurity for earlier generations, underlying the forced bonhomie of assimilation. Then peruse the Recipes Section of Roadfood, and see what I meant by soup in casseroles. In places similar to Recipezaar there are endless variations,competitions and even prizes awarded for a dish which basically consists of canned croissants from the chiller rolled around various bits of poultry, arranged with processed veggies, smothered in SOUP & CHEESE, then baked. This formula has been treasured as a dinner treat in huge swaths of our society!! There is a deeply rooted culture of this type of cuisine, and it can be called the national cuisine. Church suppers, neighborhood get-togethers, wherever you have to serve many folk of unknown predilection, is where you may serve these dishes without qualms and find beaming faces. Not so Thai curry, any "unusual" things or strong flavors.
  3. Truc to release dirt clinging to greens: try this. Fill sink with water adding 2-4 drops of anionic detergent, wetting agent or DAWN liquid dish detergent [not soap]. Add greens, swish a bit, and let them lie around a tiny while. Drain & rinse. Don't think the word "chemical" = evil, & the label "green" = benign. NO WAY!!
  4. I am from India, and specialize in a couple of regional cuisines. My journey has been in the opposite direction to that of my friend, C. Sapidus, i.e. towards classic "back of the can" cooking involving the holy trinity, Campbell's cream of chicken, mushroom and celery,with shrimp bisque reserved for the rare extravagance: Group A: Midwestern casseroles & hot dishes topped with tater tots or Ritz crackers, casseroles of Oreida steak fries +soup + cheese all mixed together(!!), mini-wienies/grape jelly/Heinz chili sauce cooked for hours & served as elegant appetizers [and you imagined middle America had no clue to sous vide before you guys did, shame on you!!],Utah green Jello salad, T-day fixin's with canned Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, "Waldorf Salad" etc. Cheese & mac: I now have 28 recipes, including the Velveeta ones!! Group B: Things with Hellman's Mayo! The many different types of potato, egg, chicken,tuna, pasta & whatever salad. Group C: Popeye's Fried Chicken and their sorta Cajun Dirty Rice & Red Beans, my own sorta Cajun jambalaya & gumbos, my very good Puerto Rican arroz con pollo with sofrito made fresh, magic mofongo & gizzard escabeche. American-Chinese lo mein. The ideal food pyramid: choose 1 from Group A [dairy & fruit], 1 from B [fresh vegetables], 2 from C [grains and protein].
  5. Thank you so much for the lily bulb information. For the beginner, only trust the Chinese grocery, seems to be the best bet!!!! As you mentioned, the BUD, the dry Golden Needles, definitely originate in the WILD ORANGE DAYLILY, HEMEROCALLIS. You can get this plant identified by your Park Ranger & take a start [hopefully] from a wild stand. Not the cultivated yellow or red ones. Why, don't ask me; received wisdom!
  6. I did not say that at all! It might be very delicious in its OWN right, a tweaked creation of some excellent chef, e.g. Herme's pineapple chutney. We have a pineapple chutney in Bengal, and when I worked out Herme's flavors in my head, they did not add up, just as MY absolutely traditional one would be quite unpleasing to him & 99% of European tastes. That, precisely, is why we have the phenomenonof restaurant cuisine in "Indian", "Chinese" restaurants. There was an Indian restaurant owner who ran his operation with Hispanic cooks, as many excellent restaurants do. [One of the best Iranian restaurants in D.C. is the creation of a Latino chef, lauded by expatriate Iranians, the ultimate achievement!] He taught them his recipes which they perfectly executed for years. One day they invited him to a meal, with the same Indian dishes interpreted to their tastes. He was completely blown away by the use of huge amounts of ketchup, and a totally alien flavor profile! Returning to Vadouvan, you might be interested to pursue the cuisine of the Tamil-French in Pondicherry. It is so little known. Chandan-nagar in Bengal remained an anomalous French outpost late into the British Empire but no studies have been done on any unique fusion cuisine. I do know something of the zamindar cooking but those arts are truly dead.
  7. As Jenni rightly observes, India is as large as Western Europe, minus Russia. An "Indian" store, like the term "Indian" food, is as meaningful, or not, as "European" food, Continental food, or an "European" store in a distant land. The proprietors would tend to specialize in their own regional specialities. Vadouvan, as such, is a French derivative term of an Indian term related to VADI, dried paste of pulses, variously flavored. Pondicherry French-Tamil cuisine is a unique style, now gaining notoriety. In the Tamil country & the South there are MANY VADAGAMS, many dried pastes used for long storage. Not all are legume based and all have different uses. The Mudaliar community specializes in VADAGAMS that are used to flavor main dishes, vegetarian or not. These are not TEMPERING VADAGAMS, tempering being a pan-Indian process, where a flavoring, e.g. whole spice like cumin, mustard, asafetida, chopped garlic, enter hot oil, before boiled legumes, or lightly cooked vegetables are added to infuse them with flavor. Thalippu VADAGAM is ONLY employed for tempering traditional dishes. It would be almost IMPOSSIBLE to purchase VADAGAM of the MUDALIAR style or the THALIPPU VADAGAM, just as it is [was?] impossible to purchase genuine BOTTLE MASALA or GOAN TONAK or many things prepared solely at the COMMUNITY level in India or in SPECIFIC LOCALITIES. Not even in India, and no one outside those areas have even heard of these special products, least of all traders, who are poorly educated. Vadouvan is merely another trend created by food writers here, who tell people, This is what is supposed to be delicious this season, and people dare not disagree.
  8. What types of Lilies give the tastiest bulbs,please? As far as my limited knowledge goes, garden varieties of the true Lilies, LILIUM, most commonly are sold under the ASIATIC [upward facing, relatively scentless], ORIENTAL [tall, fragrant,trumpets] TURKS-CAP, Easter Lilies [potted, seasonal] and Species & Specialists types. The ORANGE wild DAYLILIES [HEMEROCALLIS] are the ones for the buds in hot & sour soup, I think, the Golden Needles, although people say their emerging shoots etc. are good to eat, too. Which of the true Lily bulbs have you found to be good? And how do you cook them? When are they best eaten? When the leaves are just emerging in spring, or at any time of the year? I read somewhere that Lilium pumilum bulbs are good eating! This is a beautiful red lily with SMALL bulbs; they also do not live long unlike the persistent Turks cap. I should hate to torment this lovely plant to get the tiniest mouthful of questionable taste!!! Thanks!
  9. Red lentils, Lens culinaris, masoor dal, washed carefully, and cooked without any spices in plenty of water will have a thin clear supernatant that is an enormously flavorful broth by itself, or can become a stock base like chicken stock for other vegetarian soups. You can make a rice congee with this, and put petit pois, and mash those up. Fantastic base for light tomato soup. I regularly eat just the plain boiled red lentils, cooked slow and low, until completely dissolved by themselves, seasoned only with salt & fresh lime juice. Thai jasmine rice cooked to softness, is another favorite, in Bengal to accompany this. No ghee necessary, if this is the comfort food of chilhood! Mashed russet potato or yukon gold, too, pureed with milk, to accompany this. Or, mashed,pureed RIDGED GOURD, seasoned with salt & lime juice. Or, mashed, pureed acorn squash. You are into Bengali Brahman food!!!!!!! Jasmine rice cooked to congee with coconut milk extracted fresh from frozen grated coconut. No cans with their chemical preservatives. Make sure to cook the milk thoroughly to kill any microbes. [Or Maharashtrian Brahman, where saada vaaran is plain boiled tur [pigeon pea] dal, salt, lime juice, +/- ghee,with white rice]. Mung dal, very lightly roasted in a dry skillet cooked in plain water, salt; add green peas, tiny bit of ginger juice; puree. Eat with congee. Urad dal, cook with low fat milk & water in slow cooker with chunk of ginger,& fennel & parsley stems in cheesecloth [remove later. Add some asafetida when you have a couple of hours left, if you desire, then yoghurt, if you like. Puree, eat with congee, and pureed cauliflower, potatoes, eggplant. NO SEED, NO TEMPERING, NO SPICE in MANY dishes!! BRAHMAN cooking is extremely mild! Many vegetables are cooked in milk. Rice, jasmine, washed, soaked, ground fine in blender: then cook down milk to your desired consistency, whatever you may tolerate, or use almond milk without boiling it down. Then introduce the rice slurry, gently cook it, and sweeten the mixture with maple syrup, or flavor with infusion of green cardamom & saffrom, and sweeten according to your desire. This will give you a mild dessert easy on the stomach. ROASTED/PARCHED flour from BARLEY and CHICKPEAS, called TSAMPA, SHAKTU, SATTU, by Tibetans & Indians remain staples. They were the lifeblood of the Aryans, so much so that the word for "blessing" is ASHIRVAAD, where the ASHII refers to the 3 ASHI,viz. parched barley flour (shaktu), yoghurt, & ghee. Tibetans will make a slurry of the TSAMPA with PHOCHAA, salted butter tea. It is a taste well worth acquiring. I know from experience that government hospitals in Calcutta began using this formula when faced with the problem of how to get malnourished female patients ready to undergo urgent surgery with the least delay, given their limited budgets. Parched Chickpea flour can also be found, and can be cooked into very nutty tasting, delicious, soups lending a whole different dimension to the vegetable base. This SHAKTU/Sattu is very very different from the RAW chickpea flour, called BESAN, from which Kadhis, another type of vegtable-based or yoghurt-based brothy foods may be prepared. The Iranian Kishk & the Iraqi kishk [the infamous kishk ha' baavli of the Torah!], two products sharing the same name but dissimilar to each other in content, and can also be looked into for soup base, along with true kefir.
  10. Actually, methi refers to the seed. Methi saag or hara/hari methi in the Northern Hindi belt & menthikoora in some Southern languages specify the greens.
  11. VADAKAM/ VADAGAM is the actual Tamil name for an ancient spice mixture that is the distinctive signature of the MUDALIAR community.You can read about them and their cooking below. The French-Tamil derivation of VADAKAM is VADOUVAN, now allegedly finding favor in the USA. http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/living/save-what-you-savour "Though Mudaliar cuisine has now become a medley of different gastronomical genres, there are still some ingredients that have survived in their original form down the ages. Take the vadakam, for instance. It is a spice mix which no true-blue Mudaliar household can do without. A kind of tempering ball, it is made with garlic, onions, mustard seeds and curry leaves in a long-drawn process. Once all the ingredients have been blended to perfection, the mix is dried in the sun everyday until all the moisture is absorbed." I have been told that various types of citrus leaves are also part of the mixture in some localities, but have no personal experience. Aharam – Traditional Cuisine of Tamil Nadu by Sabita Radhakrishna http://pedatha.com/2009/10/25/sabita-radhakrishna-on-mummys-potato-dill-fry/ VADAGAM: http://lakshmiammal.wordpress.com/2006/12/14/vadagam-a-must-have-in-our-home/ part of an excellent blog Compare it with the "Vadouvan" version, one of which appears in Fat-free Vegan Magazine. See also for recipes & detailed explanation:
  12. Please specify whether you are cooking kacchi/pakki dum biryani, i.e. raw meat topped by par-cooked rice? Whose recipes are you using? This is an art best learned by watching, and you may go to gourmetindia.com, biryani thread for more discussions. The shape of the vessel is important, the amount of fat is too, but it is NOT such an arcane art that truly low-fat biryani cannot be made simply wth great ease using a microwave to parboil. I used to be a great traditionalist, using acidulated water to exactly parboil rice to exact specifications and be the ultimate stickler for details. Most basmati today is from hybrid varieties. A 3 quart square corningware type casserole will accomodate a bit more than 4 measurng cups of reasonably OK basmati rice that has been well washed, drained and air dried. That rice when JUST covered with water, and no more, in a 1000 W microwave at 22:22 will yield the 1 kanni & 1.5 kanni rice in perfect sequence. That is, the less-cooked rice needed to go over the raw meat will be found at the top of the casserole to the requisite depth, and what remains on the bottom of the casserole goes on the top of the biryani container. For 4 cups of rice, almost 2 kg of meat is appropriate and a 9-11 quart Sitram Profesorie rondeux brazier is ideal; even a larger size is fine, a 15 qt being excellent. Large is good, always, because the best biryanis are made in a lagan. I suspect you have been using a Le Creuset or Staub dutch oven, true? The cylindrica shape is not useful. Even a 17, 19, 22 inch sauteuse with cover is a good utensil. Low sides, lower than 5-6 inches. In traditonal biryanis and zarebirian, the ratio of fat can be as high as 500 grams ghee to 750 grams meat in kacchi/kacchi [raw meat/raw rice], depending on the types of meat & rices used. Long-grain Basmati is not always favored. The waters dry up and one actually keeps time by touching the sides of the vessel with a wet finger, by listening to the faint hissing of the rice sizzling in fat and by understanding the dum as the ring of dough dries out and releases the inner aroma,what stage of doneness. Your chicken can suffer from many types of problems and some more details would be welcome. What chicken is being used? How much chicken, how much rice? A common problem is that cooks hesitate to turn UP the heat to generate the STRONG HEAD of steam necessary for dum. Right at the beginning, HIGH HEAT to get the DUM started: all the water down below is cooked into steam and moves into the rice. Traditionally, moist cotton rags were placed on top of the rice in a agan, to regulate the steam environment. It is difficult to recommend this practice without knowingwhat type of vessel is being used. Without specific information about specific techniques you are using [e.g.if you are using milk +lemon finishes] it is impossible to comment on your problem. There are specific subtypes of biryanis, the cooked korma, the cooked broth + yoghurt + parcooked rice, the raw meat + parcooked rice, raw meat/raw rice, and even more variations. So details are vital.
  13. As far as possible, please keep your numbers mentally friendly for your prospective clients. Thus, in the example above, 4 casseroles + 4 soups = 8 portions = $64 = $64/8 = $8/portion is more "accessible" to a customer than $52. Then,you add, 1 loaf bread, FREE, value $6, and you come out ahead, in their eyes & in yours (hopefully). Owner draw: Car, gas, repair, depreciation, insurance on car & business, your time delivering/shopping/cooking, Social Security the you pay as a small business owner, all will begin to mount up. What will be your break even point? The number of customers to break even, taking the above into account, will sort of determine your pricing and even the types of foods you can afford to serve. We have to work BACKWARDS from the BREAK EVEN POINT, & OWNER DRAW, not from EMPIRICAL PRICE POINTS decided in advance. What income are you seeking, how many hours are you planning to work, & how many customers [& of what income level] do you believe you can attract, are going to decide your pricing. Please pardon me from emphasizing what you already know well, but the pricing mechanism must be able to integrate within itself all the hundreds of costs involved, from fuel, to disposables to detergents, or anything else on which you may have to spend money, time & effort! A small home business like this rarely fails through the absence of technical prowess or capability. It is by not thoroughly anticipating the roles of invisible animals like cash flow, and other traps laid by money that the owner is driven up the wall.
  14. Bonnie, India is compressing >3 centuries of change in <40 years, and the pace grows exponentially. The result is the extinction of genuine foodways, the practitioners, the rural base, forest, & traditional crops species, and most importantly the genuine practitioners of the nuanced arts & their genuine patrons [for the most part]. Instead, we have the poseurs, and a whole flight of restaurant and hotel chefs who try & sometimes make some effort to resurrect the myriad styles of community foodways. But the scene can be likened to a mosaic of rich habitat in an equatorial region, subjected to clear-cutting, the latter being the willed homogenization of tastes as India becomes more closely knit together by common cultural artifacts. Just like the bagel & pizza were relatively unknown in the USA as a whole 60-70 years ago but now are deemed indispensable to everyone's sense of identity & well-being here, so too in India, relatively strange "new" pan-Indian foods rapidly have displaced skills and tastes for traditional items. Tandoori chicken is not Indian, but strangely enough tandoors have been part of the Indian culinary scene at least as long as the Pathan invaders have been present, which may pre-date Islam! I found this out in remote village river ports of West Bengal with heavy Muslim presence, where there were NO tandoori chickens ever, but an ancient tandoor culture of extraordinary breads, pre-dating the Punjabi influx into Delhi during 1947 by centuries! ONLY in these ports, ONLY during the weekly market days! Gradually, these places, too, have become co-opted into the pan-Indian Punjabi & coarse dhaba styles of cooking, losing their specific preparations, cooked without spices, tomatoes or any trace of chilies.
  15. Daleem is the Bengali for pomegranate. Now we are getting into the regional terms for the SAME ALL INDIA RAT DROPPING things, hence all the confusion & heart burning!! So then, Daleem is that pomegranate base we spoke of, so beloved in Bengal & elsewhere. In Bengainl, the older generaton will call it Daleem Hojmee, i.e. pomegranate digestive, to give sober ladies & widows the excuse to snack on the same stuff terminally naughty children are told to stay away from, or they will catch typhoid from the toon-toonwala. This is the man who brings a glass case full of dried & spiced Zizyphus nummularia, tiny wild jujubes, sweet-sour, sun-dried, oily, and mainly seed, but oh-so good when you are little! Also, fresh Spondias mombin, the hog-plum, mainly fibrous flesh, turned to magic with the miraculous powder carried ONLY by that mysterious tribe of toon-toon walas [so named, because because like the Pied Piper, they carry attach little tinkly bells to their persons]. Much else, including magical tops in amazing colors, spun with string, and glass marbles, and such wonders, all carried in the compass of a shallow, flat glass & wooden case not a meter long, propped up on a wicker stand. Back to Churan which I spelt Choorun merely to communicate its phonemes. It begins life as a powder or moist base. From there it can be made into the moist round balls, elongate drier thingies, or there are other formulations that appear in the shape & size of peppercorns, & large peppercorns. GOLI means ball, or round shape. In Bengal, in various local carnivals their is a bewildering variety of HOJMI GOOLI, the Bengali phrase. Some have a whole CUMIN or CAROM seed at their center. This, I suppose, gives them their "digestive" property! Some are more sweet than others, or sour or salty, dry or crumbly. Go to a BENGALI centric [not Bangladeshi! although I don't know if they stock those things]grocery store in the US/UK and ask if they stock CHUTNEY LOZENGES. The good stuff from Kolkata is wonderful for those with a taste for such things. Or ask a friend returning from Kolkata to get you some + DAW SEN's Sweet Mango Pickle, Chutney, & Curry Pastes. After the absolute garbage purveyed by a famous & ubiquitous brand out of UK, please try some good stuff. Sadly, Bengalis lack initiative & organizational drive to market these things globally. Likewise, very high quality Sugar Date Palm Syrup [Nolen Gur] will leave many wondering why people have praised Maple Syrup to the skies:ignorance is bliss, I suppose. So will Date Palm Patali, far far superior than the finest maple sugar. The problem is uneven quality control. Terminalia chebula: HARITAKI in Sanskrit, a famous stomachic & digestive; renowned Ayurvedic dictum: yadyapi kupitA mAtA nodarasthA haritakI : even if a mother ever become enraged [using a literary trope, i.e. Indian moms are supposed to be all-forgiving] (at you), HARITAKI in the stomach will never upset (it). Along with the AMALAKA/AMALAKI, Phyllanthus officinalis, [Emblica], Haritaki, is an important component of a set of stomachics & astringents called TRIPHALA, [three fruits] used for digestive purposes, and used in churan. The Sour & sweet hides the astringency. Carom is a carminative, and makes you burp; it is VERY popular in India, and culturally, burping is a very polite, and important part of dining & post-prandial etiquette. In the Mahabharata, there is the famous episode of a sage known for his wicked temper & savage curses, arriving suddenly at the leaf hut where the exiled princes, the Pandavas, where eking out a living amidst great danger. With his flock of disciples, he demanded to be fed. The 5 Pandava brothers shared but a single wife, a remarkable woman, named Draupadi. In despair, she called upon Lord Krishna, who appeared and consumed the single morsel of rice left in her kitchen and burped in satisfaction. At this, the guests were filled to satiety, and recognized the error of their ways. Burping is a silly word in English and has idiotic connotations. In Sanskrit, the term is UDGAAR, and the nuances are extraordinarily different. It implies satisfaction with the host, and the carminatives like fennel & carom, & churan, offered, after meals, especially betel leaf, and the elaborate service accompanying it, have great social & religious significance. Betel leaf is an obligatory item in most religious & social ceremonies, & this churan ties in with the digestive aspect of the post-prandial betel & its socio-religious place in the culture. Not just India but S.E. Asia. When you hear rojak in Indonesia, you are hearing ROCAKA in SANSKRIT, the same idea as chaat, a sweet-sour element to stimulate DIGESTION in a hot climate, stimulate ruci, appetite!
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