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eG Foodblog: MarketStEl - My Excellent Sub/Urban Adventure


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Good morning!

And thank God for leftovers.

Last night was pretty rough, what with income taxes and all (yes, I'm a horrible procrastinator; I had actually done the dry run of my partner's taxes Sunday, and this was the evening when I sat down and explained it all to him. Me? I filed Form 4868 at 11:45 pm last night).

It started with a missed connection that I guess is fortuitous in this context. If I'm not out the door of my office at the stroke of 5, I run the risk of missing the southbound bus I must catch to make it back into town by 6.

I saw both the northbound and southbound buses whiz through the intersection of 15th and Providence as I was a block away.

So I waited until 5:30 for the next northbound 109:


and while waiting, read an interesting item about another local food institution--Wawa, about which more eventually--that I hope to get around to posting to Food Media & News later today.

Then I got off in Swarthmore to wait for the 5:55 inbound R3.

tejon, you will no doubt be pleased to know that the Village Restaurant is still in business:


and that down the street from it, the local grocery store has nice new digs. It should come as no surprise that in this highly educated, progressive community, the local supermarket is a co-op:


But it bears little resemblance to the bins-of-whole-grains-beans-and-nuts places that are often associated with the term. The store is about the size of a 1950s city supermarket but much brighter. I didn't scope out the deli or prepared foods sections while I was there, but let's just say that in the regular grocery aisles, this place was hard to distinguish from an ordinary supermarket. Here, for instance, is the soft drink section:


Many of the streets in Swarthmore are named for well-known colleges and universities. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth and Rutgers are all represented, as are Mt. Holyoke and several others. The Borough of Swarthmore just built a new street running past the co-op, and decided to correct a historical oversight in naming it, I guess:


(Lincoln University, in Chester County, began life in the 1840s in Philadelphia as the Institute for Colored Youth. It is the oldest historically black university in the United States.)

Not needing anything, I made my way over to the platform for the train into town:


and got off at 30th Street Station in order to mail a certified letter at the main post office.

30th Street Station is the last of the grand passenger stations built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, opened in 1932 and lovingly restored about five years ago:


As part of the reconstruction, a food court was installed in the station's south concourses.


It attracts decent crowds, but there's been a fair bit of turnover among the merchants. Bucks County Coffee Co. and Delilah's soul food place are the two oldest occupants, and may well be the only original tenants still there.

There are also a couple of Caribbean food trucks that regularly park in front of the post office:


Denise's--the pink one in the rear--is the older of the two. I ate there on occasion when I did a temp assignment at Drexel University, which is just west of here, and their food is pretty decent. I can't tell you anything about René's, the white truck in the foreground. In Philly's college precincts, food trucks are quite popular and fill a real need for good, cheap fare.

From there I headed home, where I served my partner and my friend Bernard a reprise of yesterday's dinner:


Baked ham, macaroni and cheese, and--oops! Roommate and partner's boyfriend must have polished off most of the collard greens, so I steamed some Brussels sprouts for Bernard and myself.

After that, it was tax time and time to attempt to catch up with some résumé work I'm behind on (I didn't succeed).

Next: Today's Trivia Question and the Fridge Shot.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Thanks for all the kind comments, everyone!

Before moving on, a few followup notes on my previous post:

More on Swarthmore:

--I will recommend the Village Restaurant for a reason besides their food. One evening, when I got to Swarthmore, I needed to go to the bathroom badly. SEPTA trains are not equipped with toilets :angry: , and most of their outlying stations are open only in the morning and early afternoon--and lack restrooms as well. I walked over to the Village Restaurant and explained my predicament to the hostess, who let me use their facilities. Small-town friendliness lives in the 'burbs!

--The borough's Web site, linked above, includes this description of the town:

Since 1893, Swarthmore has been a tree-lined residential community of distinctive homes and quiet neighborhoods, anchored by the campus of Swarthmore College. At the center of the Borough is a downtown core of unique, independent shops and services.

And sure enough, there is not a chain establishment to be found anywhere in the borough's tidy, roughly two-block-long business district. Not even a Starbucks.

That is about to change, as the banner draped over the door of the most prominent building in downtown Swarthmore makes clear:


Given the chains' relative images, I would have thought the Swarthmoreans would have preferred a Starbucks over a Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin-Robbins combo if they were going to get a coffee chain. If we're just going on the taste of the coffee, however, I think they made the right choice. But couldn't they have gone after Bucks County Coffee instead?

A further comment on food trucks: Not everyone is enamored of them--my former employer (the University of Pennsylvania) took some heat when it cleared a bunch of trucks from a prime, centrally located campus block to make way for a retail-and-hotel complex. But trucks remain a part of the Penn scene too: Craig LaBan, the restaurant critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, reviewed Yue Kee Mobile Kitchen, a long-established Chinese food truck on the Penn campus, a year ago and gave it two bells (a "Very Good" rating), urging readers to order off the menu if they could figure out how to.

Now, on to today's business.

First, the answer to yesterday's Trivia Question: The building in question is the location of Horn & Hardart's first Automat restaurant. That's right--the icon of New York modernity originated in Philadelphia. Congratulations to the three eGulleteers who PMed me the correct answer: *Deborah*, Nina C. and BeeZee.

For Today's Trivia Question, we will look inside my haphazardly organized refrigerator.


As you can see, there are lots of leftover goodies inside, about half of which were from Sunday's dinner, including the foil-wrapped ham on the second shelf. (Yes, I used Velveeta for the macaroni and cheese--a pound and a half, augmented by another half pound of New York State Cheddar and a quarter pound of baby Swiss. The recipe on the package produces a wonderfully gloppy sauce that sticks to everything [and congeals into something between paste and cement once it cools], and everyone I serve it to likes it, every bit as much as they do the all-real-cheese sauce I make.)

We're also big juice drinkers, as the door shelf further illustrates:


But the source of Today's Trivia Question isn't on the door shelf.

It's right on top of the Velveeta:


Philadelphia Brand cream cheese is one of a handful of truly global food brands, spreading the name of its namesake city to the four corners of the world. Our recent blogger from South Africa, gsquared, had a package in his fridge too, as the photo in this post shows.

But as I'm sure many of you know, Philadelphia Brand cream cheese has never been made in Philadelphia.

Today's Trivia Question is a two-parter and researchable online:

1. Where did Philadelphia Brand cream cheese originate?

2. Why was it named for Philadelphia?

BTW, for breakfast this morning, I varied my routine and had a bowl of this instead:


(Those of you who have followed my ravings around various parts of the General Food Topics forum know that I am no brand snob.)

Then I got down to assembling the salads, starting with the contents of the spinner--bagged Romaine salad and bagged spring mix from OK Lee in the Reading Terminal Market, augmented with sliced red, yellow and green bell peppers and cucumber slices:


To which I added sliced mushrooms:


cherry tomatoes cut in half:


imitation bacon bits and croutons.


Then I made my partner a liverwurst sandwich with lettuce and American cheese, packed everything away and got ready to go to work.

Later today:


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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My word - look at 30th street station now! It's amazing to see all the changes since I lived out that way. Glad to see The Village Restaurant still alive and kicking. I'm a bit shocked to see chains finally infiltrating such a special town, though. Ah well - that's progress for you.


Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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What brand is the dressing? Before we moved here, jalapeno ranch was a favourite as a pizza dipping sauce. I haven't seen it here in CA though.

It's "America's Choice" dressing -- the store brand at chains owned by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P), including Super Fresh in the Philadelphia area.

I hadn't seen the variety on the shelves at my neighborhood Super Fresh before, and there was a sale on it about three weeks ago. It's got a nice little kick on top of the buttermilk and herbs.

(Not-terribly-relevant aside that popped into my head as I typed this: Back when I lived in an apartment in a building that had a rear courtyard, I used to host a cookout every summer. One year I brought a ton of America's Choice hamburger buns for the burgers, which led to many of the guests appropriating the brand name to describe other guests' butts.)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I love your blog! I grew up in Wilmington, swam on the Chester YWCA swim team, attended photography school at Race and something, and managed various bookstores in Wilmington and Philadelphia....your blog brings back SO many memories...thank you!!

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

--Flannery O'Connor, "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

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Sounded good to me. Crab cakes? Old Bay fries? Yum!

This is what the students in our undergraduate Hospitality Management program here at Widener were serving for lunch today in the dining room in Academic Center North, the school's home:


(The large grass field in front of the building is the site of the old football stadium, built in 1926 and demolished in 1991. The new stadium is about 1/4 mile to the northeast, near the new fitness center. The field is still used for recreation; right now, it's striped for soccer.)

Unfortunately, by the time I got to the Heintz Dining Room at 11:55 am--25 minutes into the one-hour window when the students serve lunch on Tuesdays--the place was busier than usual:


and they had run out of the crab cakes.

And the Waldorf salad.

And the pizzas for one.

And the hot dogs they had brought out in place of the pizzas.

All I ended up with was New England clam chowder in a bread bowl, served with a smile:


and fries with Old Bay (season 'em yourself):


But hey--if you can't make mistakes in college, how else are you going to learn how to forecast patronage for your restaurant?


David Tucker, the professor of hospitality management who runs the dining room component of the undergraduate program, explained that running the dining room was an important part of the curriculum, accounting for 20% of the students' grade for the semester.

Generally speaking, students in their sophomore or junior year are organized into teams responsible for planning two themed lunches each semester. They determine the menu, order the food, come up with the décor, and advertise the week's lunch via word of mouth, posters, flyers and notices posted to our Campus Cruiser online portal. They also run the front and the back of the house during lunch and prep the food under the guidance of the kitchen manager, who is always a Hospitality Management alum. (A perk that comes with the job: the occupant gets to pursue a master's in hospitality management on Widener's dime.)

Tucker assured me that students don't get penalized for underestimating patronage when it's time to grade their efforts. In fact, he said, teams had been reducing the amount of food they ordered because patronage had been so light that there was still food being thrown away after school employees had a chance to eat. (That was most assuredly not a problem today--Tucker excused himself from my table to go into the kitchen to see what could be prepared for the staff.)

It's a shame the patronage hasn't been as good as it was today, for the students produce a good meal--certainly better than Aramark fare and the equal of better chain restaurants. The clam chowder, for instance, had plenty of fresh clams in it and a broth that was substantial enough without using lots of thickeners.

In keeping with the theme, the tables were decorated in a casino motif.


Service at lunch is buffet style:


The juniors and seniors serve dinner on Wednesday nights in the dining room, with table service and wine or beer available at the bar (forgive the blurry photo).


The bar area is decorated with vintage photographs of activities at PMC.

As the semester is winding down, today was the last Tuesday lunch is being served in Heintz this semester. That too might have accounted for the heavier-than-usual patronage.

If you live in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic regions, ask the manager of your country club or hotel restaurant where they went to college. There's a good chance he or she might be a Widener grad. Graduates also go on to work in institutional settings like hospitals or colleges, and some go into the regular restaurant industry as well.

Historical background: Widener's hospitality management program came along with Brandywine College, a two-year institution in suburban Wilmington that the university purchased in 1981 to provide a decent home for its (Delaware) School of Law. The two-year program was turned into a four-year course of study and moved to the main campus in Chester in 1988.

I'm told that Widener is in talks with the operator of a popular casual eatery in a nearby township to build and run a sit-down restaurant on the site of a local pub right next to campus that was shut down after a Widener student was killed outside it about four years ago. It would be a good thing if this happens--besides, our hospitality students could get more practice that way. :wink:

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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P.S.  So, you watching "Girlmore Girls" or inserting labels on your open-fridge shot?  :wink:


Labels are for mayonnaise jars.

But maybe for you, I might explain all the mysterious stuff in those storage containers.

Gilmore Girls?

I'm watching the History Channel right now--a pretty alarming documentary on what would happen when the next Big One hits San Francisco--and trying to stay focused on a really dense résumé job.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Well, the Résumé from Hell is done. Now all I have to do is the critique.

Before I do that, I'm going to get some rest. And before I do that, I'll fill you in on this evening.

I made my bus this evening and got to Chester train station:


Sorry for the shot into the sun. It's really a very handsome structure, built by the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore (leased to the PRR in the early 1900s) in 1903 and restored by SEPTA in the late 1990s.

in time to shoot, but not order anything from, this little soul food hole in the wall right across the street:


Maybe I'll make it down here for lunch before the week's out.

Caught the 5:22 R2 into the city:


and got to Market East at 6:02--just after the Reading Terminal Market closes for the day. I've griped about this on the Pennsylvania board. It's not like the general manager doesn't agree with me--he does. But right now, his main focus is on getting the merchants to all stay open until 6. Then he might take a stab at staying open later.

I didn't need anything from the RTM anyway today. I needed to pick up some kitchen supplies, so I headed down 10th Street to my local Super Fresh:


AKA the "Super Cruise," this is probably one of the few supermarkets in the country to be named "Best Pickup Spot"--in this case, by respondents to the 2004 Philadelphia CityPaper Readers' Choice poll, who named it the best pickup spot in Center City. I have a very strong feeling that many of the readers who voted in that category were male.

Saturday is the traditional grocery shopping day in Philadelphia, but supermarkets in Center City are almost as busy from about 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays as urbanites pick up something for dinner. Maybe salad fixings from the produce section:


Or sandwich meats, cheeses and salads from the deli counter:


Or something already cooked from the hot foods buffet.


(Those who have some extra coin to drop, or who are expecting guests and want to wow them without actually cooking anything, are probably across 10th Street at the Whole Foods Market:


(I did manage to get a couple of inside shots before I was politely told photography wasn't allowed inside the store. Of course, WFM has an eye-popping produce display:


and a much bigger prepared-foods buffet table:


and a deli and cheese counter that will knock your socks off [unless you patronize DiBruno's regularly]. So will the prices, which is why my forays into WFM are infrequent. Tonight's trip was for display purposes only.)

I had gone to the store to pick up aluminum foil, plastic wrap and storage bags.

Having done that, I went home and started dinner.

The description of which will have to wait until morning. It's way late and I need to turn in.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Sandy - are you going to show the nice folks that don't live here the DiBruno's store before the end of your blog? I'm certain they'd be delighted to have you take nice pictures and post them for everyone to see... :smile:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Sandy - are you going to show the nice folks that don't live here the DiBruno's store before the end of your blog?  I'm certain they'd be delighted to have you take nice pictures and post them for everyone to see... :smile:

I second that. :wub:

Sandy, thanks for the links to the Chester and Swarthmore sites. Especially that old Chester one, I'm looking forward to getting back to it and read more thoroughly.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Sandy - are you going to show the nice folks that don't live here the DiBruno's store before the end of your blog?  I'm certain they'd be delighted to have you take nice pictures and post them for everyone to see... :smile:

I second that. :wub:

Sandy, thanks for the links to the Chester and Swarthmore sites. Especially that old Chester one, I'm looking forward to getting back to it and read more thoroughly.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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DiBruno's, please! My favorite thing about Philadelphia (I'm a Wilmington native) is a stroll around the Italian Market and a stop into DiBruno's on a Saturday morning.

"It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you."

-Nigel Slater

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Hope you make it to Cheryl's for lunch.

Third (or fourth) the request for DiBruno's. A must, I think. Both the South Philly one (which I seldom go), as well as the new one in Center City.

On an unrelated note, my satellite is out, so I missed the Gilmore Girls. I'm seriously bummed and in withdrawal. :sad:

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Not to worry, folks!

You'll have shots of both DiBruno stores--the Italian Market original and their dazzling new Chestnut Street emporium--before the week's out.

In the meantime, let me get back to last night, and to the Trivia Question.

Last things first.

You all are great researchers! Of the eight answers I received to yesterday's Trivia Question--all correct--six of you quoted verbatim the Philadelphia Brand history from Kraft Foods' Web site:

Cream cheese originated in the United States in 1872 when a dairyman in Chester, NY, developed a "richer cheese than ever before," made from cream as well as whole milk. Then in 1880, a New York cheese distributor, A. L. Reynolds, first began distributing cream cheese wrapped in tin-foil wrappers, calling it Philadelphia Brand.

But why did he call it Philadelphia? The name "Philadelphia Brand cream cheese" was adopted by Reynolds for the product because at that time, top-quality food products often originated in or were associated with the city, and were often referred to as being "Philadelphia quality."

One of you, a fellow PhillieGulleteer, I_call_the_duck, related to me a story that backs up the passage that follows this:

Today, the same Philadelphia quality can be experienced around the world – from Holland, Spain and Scandanavia, to Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines, to Saudi Arabia, Australia, Singapore, South Korea and Venezuela.

Rich and creamy, Philadelphia remains adaptable to an infinite number of combinations and occasions. In many European countries, Philadelphia is eaten as a cheese, rather than a spread, and is served on cheese trays. For example, in Italy, chunks of Philadelphia are served in fresh salads.

I've been known to eat "Philly" all by itself, right out of the package, so I guess that makes me a little European.

Congratulations go out to: ghostrider, mizducky, little ms foodie, suzilightning, Jake, I_call_the_duck (who, as a Philadelphian, is ineligible for the prize), Lori in PA (who I believe also lives a little too close to here--please correct me if you're not from the Southeast), and ninac.

Today's Trivia Question is a little more obscure, but the answer can still be found online. If by 6 p.m. EDT tonight I find that I've stumped all of you, I will provide a hint. It has to do with the owners of my neighborhood supermarket, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, which used to be to groceries in the US what Sears, Roebuck & Company was to just about everything else.

The Super Fresh chain was born in 1982 out of the ashes of the A&P Philadelphia division and proved to be successful enough that it was expanded into the Washington-Baltimore market. This took place after the Huntington Family Trust sold its majority stake in A&P to a major German retailer, the Tengelmann Group, in the late 1970s.

Apparently, the family that owns Tengelmann developed a certain fondness for this city, for they made a major gift to a local university that led it to rename its business school for the family patriarch.

Can you name the university and the school?

Now, on to last night's dinner.

Leftovers are fine, but you can only do so many reiterations of any one dinner. Nonetheless, I got home later than usual because of the errand I ran on the way home, so I decided I'd do something real quick and easy.

I started with one of those "Bodacious Chicken Ta-Tas" I posted about a couple of months back:


(This is one whole chicken breast. It weighs about 1.2 pounds and could feed four people by itself.)

I then decided I'd marinate it in an Asian sauce consisting of the following four ingredients, plus honey:


While the breasts marinated, I ran up to the corner convenience store, about which more later:


to pick up something else I forgot--


dry food for our two cats, KK (on the chair) and Miss Curiosity (beneath it).


(Our apartment building is one of a relative few large ones in Center City that is pet-friendly.)

I then pulled out my trusty countertop grill, which denizens of the "Dinner!" thread will no doubt recognize, and started cooking.


Meanwhile, I boiled some rice in water seasoned with onion powder, chicken base and sazón, a blend of spices popular in Puerto Rico that The Spice Corner in the Italian Market sells (similar to but not to be confused with Sazón Goya, a widely available seasoning that includes MSG), and pulled a package of steam-in-the-bag broccoli and cauliflower out of the freezer.


I am very much aware that fresh is better--the veggies came out a little mushy after being nuked for the recommended 5 minutes--but I find that I can't always count on being able to stop at a store to pick something up on the way home (though that may change, and I'll show you why later this week) and like to have veggies on hand for when I need to throw something together, like last night. In those situations, frozen veggies are superior to canned.

The result was a simple but tasty dinner.


(The extra bit of breast was because I split the breast quarters in two, but I was only feeding three people.)

I now have to run off to cover senior communications students' capstone projects. Later today, I hope to share with you some thoughts on questions a few of you have raised and other aspects of living and eating in Philly.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Good morning Sandy,

Our rural server here at Treetops has only allowed for intermittent glimpses of your storied life this week, sometimes sans photos, but what we’ve seen so far has been great.

Eva and I love your city as if it were our own, and perhaps that’s what makes it so attractive—culinarily, historically, architecturally—that it is so accepting and accessible to outsiders. Our recent experiences (our business partners are officed there) have provided wonderful contrast to life in Vancouver, one of the newest cities in the world.

We’ll be fairly close to you next week, but not close enough. Not incidentally, I think we’ve now eaten in Philly enough to say that it is very much a culinary destination, cast in a colourful and storied context.

We’re very much looking forward to what comes next.

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine


Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Sandy, this is such a pleasure to read! (No dorky toques blanches on your hospitality people ... jealous!)

I had a beau who lived in Glen Riddle, many years ago, when I lived in Cincinnati. I'm remembering how beautiful the area is.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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[ . . . ]  this little soul food hole in the wall right across the street:


Maybe I'll make it down here for lunch before the week's out.

Ooooh! Yes, please to be showing a lunch at this joint. I'm already liking its vibe just from the outside, and I haven't gotten a chance to enjoy any soul food--even vicariously--in ages.

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