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Cooking the Books: Everything you ought to be eating and cooking

Cooking the Books: Everything you ought to be eating and cooking

Pick up your copy of The Sunday Star paper tomorrow (Sept 9) for a 25% discount on these cookbooks. Look for the coupon in Star2.

Disaster Chef: Simple Recipes For Cooks Who Can’t

Authors: Nadia Sawalha & Kaye Adams
Publisher: DK
Price: RM116

There is an interesting dynamic at play between Nadia Sawalha and her best friend, Kaye Adams. Sawalha is a Celebrity MasterChef UK winner while Adams has confessed that even her boiled eggs don’t necessarily turn out the same every time. Sawalha’s frustration with Adams’ culinary efforts resulted in a hit YouTube series called Disaster Chef. This, in turn, has translated to a cookbook.

As cookbooks go, this one is pretty hilarious. Each recipe includes useful hacks as well as speech bubbles from Sawalha (who provides tried-and-tested information) and Adams (who provides the humour with questions like “How on earth do you pick up a hot chicken?”).

Recipes For Heart, Health In September's Cooking The BooksThe recipes in the book are designed with beginners, or disaster chefs, in mind – basically people who need to cook to survive but simply don’t know how or where to begin. As a result, many of the recipes are incredibly simple, like boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, cheesy bread and butter pudding, and buttery carrots with parsley.

What’s enticing about the recipes is how few ingredients are required to assemble each dish, and how the step-by-step instructions document everything down to the last detail. If you’re after fuss-free recipes that show you how to make meals from scratch without boggling your mind with foreign ingredients or elaborate techniques, you’ll adore this entertaining cookbook. – Abirami Durai

Recipes For Heart, Health In September's Cooking The Books

 Eat Better, Live Longer

Authors: Dr Sarah Brewer & Juliette Kellow
Publisher: DK
Price: RM98.95

EVER wondered what’s going on in your body as you age, asks the blurb on this book’s back cover.

It’s a question we probably should consider as we get older, though thinking about it isn’t always all that fun. Nor is observing good practices to combat the adverse effects of senescence.

But trusted reference book publisher DK (formerly Dorling Kindersley) has made the subject interesting with its signature colourful graphics and illustrations.

You may already know what is good and bad for you – adopt a healthy diet, get active, deal with stress, etc – but this book helps build on that knowledge with up-to-date research based on science.

The authors look at the world’s longest-lived communities (Japan, Switzerland and Singapore are the top three), identify the common eating habits among them, and recommend a longevity eating plan.

Interspersed throughout the book are recipes as well as information on the anti-ageing benefits of 20 “wonderfoods” and “supergroups” of food, including yoghurt, pulses and root vegetables.

Having proven health benefits, plant-based dishes form most of the recipes in the book. For those of us who lean towards a rice-based diet, the four-week eating plan may take some getting used to. But the recipes are easy to make and look delicious.

Even if the plan doesn’t appeal to us, the book contains a lot of information about food and eating habits that will aid in future-proofing. – Jane F. Ragavan

Greens 24/7: Delicious Recipes For Green Veg At Every Meal Recipes For Heart, Health In September's Cooking The Books

Author: Jessica Nadel
Publisher: Quantum Publishing Limited
Price: RM130

THE plant-based diet has gained momentum in the past few years, as research has increasingly shown that embracing the diet can lead to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes.

Although theoretically it would be better to eat as much plant-based foods as you can, when you’re staring down recipes like spinach brownies (an actual recipe in this cookbook), you can’t help but wonder, “Is this really worth it?” Well, as with most things in life – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Greens 24/7 was written by Jessica Nadel, a Canadian vegan blogger who also has her own vegan bakery and is thus uniquely qualified to write this book. In terms of recipes, you’ll quickly discover that while the ones that mimic meat-based originals are laudable – think courgette noodle Bolognese and sweet potato and greens burger – it is original recipes like puff pastry with fennel and turnip greens, and kale and herb cornbread muffins that prove far more compelling and might just give you the push you need to test them out.

Ultimately, though, the book offers lots of new ideas for people looking to infuse more plant-based options into their everyday meals (even if it means embracing vegetable-dessert hybrids like chocolate-dipped kale crisps!). – AD

Recipes For Heart, Health In September's Cooking The BooksLonely Planet Food’s Ultimate Eatlist

Publisher: Lonely Planet Global Limited
Price: RM129.90

The follow-up to Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist, Ultimate Eatlist features 500 must-eat meals trawled from all over the globe. Compiled based on the experiences of Lonely Planet staff as well as top chefs and food writers like Andrew Zimmern, Jose Andres, and Curtis Stone, aided by a panel comprised of TV presenter Adam Liaw and food blogger Leyla Kazim, the list is an exhaustive collection of unique food experiences dotted across the world.

The compilation has been talked-about ever since it was released – in Malaysia, there has been jubilation that our food status has been celebrated with 11 entries in the book, with curry laksa coming in at No.2 (in the world!), and other iconic local food like ikan bakar, assam laksa, roti canai, wantan mee, beef rendang, kaya toast, Hokkien mee, char kway teow, durian and bak kut teh also making it onto the list.

Beyond Malaysia, plenty of other eating experiences abound – from more well-known culinary pursuits, like the full English breakfast in London, sushi in Tokyo and chai in India to lesser-known epicurean delights like pepperpot stew in Guyana, wallaby tail soup in Melbourne, salo in Ukraine and lahoh from Yemen.

Ultimately, this wonderful book offers an incredible homage to food in both familiar and unfamiliar parts of the world and will prove to be a trusty bible for gastro-tourists looking to heighten their travel experiences with local food experiences. – AD

I taught myself how to cook — here are 8 tips if you feel hopeless in the kitchen

I taught myself how to cook — here are 8 tips if you feel hopeless in the kitchen

You can learn to cook with some practice.

You can learn to cook with some practice.
SupportPDX/Attribution License/Flickr
  • Cooking is an art that comes effortlessly to some, but for others, it’s a foreign language that takes time to master.
  • Whether you’re fed up with the frozen isle or trying to impress your family, learning to cook is a beneficial skill you can pick up with practice.
  • After growing up on pre-packaged meals and takeout, author Jennifer Still decided to give cooking a try and relied on basic cookbooks and equipment to get her started.
  • Here are eight tips if you feel hopeless in the kitchen.

Growing up in a single-parent household, my mom’s idea of “cooking” was throwing together a pan of Hamburger Helper, picking up fast food, or ordering takeout.

These culinary habits followed me through college and into my early 20s, when I finally decided enough was enough.

While I didn’t feel completely hopeless at cooking – I believed that anyone who can read should be able to follow a recipe – I knew I had a lot to learn about mastering the art of food preparation.

After some research and a little practice, I now consider myself to be a pretty solid home chef.

Whether you’re fed up with the frozen isle, trying to impress your partner, or looking to add cooking to your skillset, here are some tips for those feeling hopeless in the kitchen.

1. Start with one or two basic cookbooks

Having a stack of cookbooks isn’t necessary.
natalie’s new york/Attribution License/Flickr

It might be tempting to load up on every cookbook under the sun when you start cooking yourself, but try and hold back from doing so.

It’s not necessary to buy Gordon Ramsay’sentire catalog– find one or two simple cookbooks with basic recipes you think you’ll like.

I started off with Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything,” “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook,”by Deb Perelman, and Jamie Oliver’s “15-Minute Meals,” all of which still get plenty of use in my kitchen.

2. Keep the fancy equipment to a minimum

Start with the basics.

When you’re just learning how to cook, you definitely don’t need a sous vide cooker or a food dehydrator to produce beginner meals.

Beginner’s cookbooks, like “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman, generally don’t require expensive, fancy equipment to complete recipes. Maybe one day, but you don’t need them as a novice.

Keep it simple, with basic supplies like a food scale and meat thermometer (if you’re a carnivore). These will help you gauge the doneness of meat and perfect amount of flavor, as unlike the pros, beginners need to carefully measure ingredients to produce quality meals.

3. Don’t go off-recipe until you’re more confident

Beginners will benefit from sticking to the instructions.
Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

Professional chefs develop new recipes from scratch, while competent home cooks likely feel comfortable adjusting recipes with their own variations.

You should be able to do this one day, depending on your commitment to advancing your skills. Until then, it’s important to stick to the measurements and ingredients as they’re written in the recipes.

With practice, you’ll learn how the components work together and which ingredients can be substituted for others without ruining the dish.

4. Good knives are a must

Some basic staples can help you get started.
Vista Photo/Shutterstock

Never underestimate the power of a good knife. You don’t have to drop big bucks on a set of Wüsthof or Henckels cutlery, but it’s a worthwhile investment to pick up a few decent staples.

When you’re getting started, you’ll likely only require a chef’s knife, a serrated bread knife, and a paring knife.

If you’re clumsy or inexperienced with cutlery – and even if you’re not – you can avoid injuries by wearing a pair of cut-resistant gloves.

5. Start a collection of herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are inexpensive ways to add flavor to your meals.
Mei Burgin/Attibutrion License/Flickr

Jarred herbs and spices are inexpensive, flavorful, and last a long time in comparison to perishable foods like fruits and veggies.

Though the set of herbs and spices you’ll have in your collection will vary based on which types of food you cook most often, a few of my essentials are basil, parsley, paprika (smoked and sweet), garlic powder, onion powder, and good quality black pepper and sea salt.

They’ll be your best arsenal for creating tasty food every single time.

6. Cook in bulk

Save some leftovers just in case.

No matter how much you love cooking, there will be times when you don’t have the time or energy to make a full meal from scratch.

This is why cooking in bulk and keeping leftovers in airtight containers in your fridge or freezer comes in handy. This is a no-brainer if you live alone or with a partner, since many recipes are portioned for families of 4 or 6.

You’ll be grateful to have some extras on hand, particularly if you make something really tasty.

7. Invest in a set of basic pans

Start with a frying pan, a stock pot, a sauté pan, and a cast iron skillet.
Bob Peters/Attribution License/Flickr

Much like knives, good pans are a must. The last thing you want is for your food to stick to cheap pans or for the coating to come off and end up in your food.

I find that medium-weight pans with a ceramic coating give me the best non-stick cooking surface and seem to chip and scratch less than teflon pans, but your mileage may vary.

Decent pans don’t have to be expensive, but look for a frying pan, stock pot, sauté pan, and cast iron skillet to start.

8. Don’t get frustrated

Practice will help you get better over time.

No matter how advanced you are at cooking, sometimes things come up that unexpectedly ruin the meal you’ve spent a lot of time preparing.

Other times, you may have followed a recipe perfectly, only to try it and not love the taste. Try not to get frustrated in these moments and keep in mind that, like any new skill, cooking is a learning process that takes time and practice.

Get back in there tomorrow and keep trying until you no longer feel hopeless in the kitchen. You’ll be a master chef in no time.

Blue Apron’s steady decline in business, as well as its latest quarterly report, hint at a troubling trend in the meal-kit industry

Blue Apron’s steady decline in business, as well as its latest quarterly report, hint at a troubling trend in the meal-kit industry

Meal-kit service Blue Apron’s latest quarterly results point to a troubling trend in the industry.

As this chart from Statista shows, business for the service has seen a steady decline since the beginning of 2016. The company’s eventual 2017 IPO, followed by a CEO replacement, didn’t do much to turn things around.

Blue Apron’s quarterly report also follows news of fellow service Chef’d laying off hundreds of employees and ceasing business operations. Customers who cancelled subscriptions such as this have cited the services’ high costs as the reason for leaving.

Tech CoD 8 3 18 tech chart of the day cotd

Jenny Cheng/Business Insider
Malaysian online cooking stars are on the rise

Malaysian online cooking stars are on the rise

For thousands of years, recipes were gleaned from family matriarchs, passed down through oral tradition and observation.

As time progressed, recipes and the way they were transmitted evolved.

First, there was the advent of cookbooks, which began with the introduction of printing presses in the 15th and 16th centuries and proliferated in the 20th century as literacy rates shot up, creating stars out of authors like Julia Child.

Cooking magazines also gained prominence in the mid-20th century as a source of precise, standardised recipes, often printed on hard-backed recipe cards.

In the 1990s, televised cooking shows burgeoned in popularity, resulting in the emergence of a new breed of recipe-providers: celebrity TV chefs.

Chefs like Chef Wan, Emeril Lagasse and Nigella Lawson impressed with recipes and tips that reflected their culinary training and F&B acumen.

Then came the early 21st century, where the Internet’s all-encompassing reach meant that recipes became easily available online on established platforms like Bon Appetit and Saveur.

But it was the advent of reality cooking shows like MasterChef which promoted talented home cooks, that really changed the game. It led to a widespread democratisation of home cooks, liberalised by the idea that their tried-and-tested recipes were worth sharing with a wider audience.

Many home cooks are sharing their recipes online, with some gaining incredible popularity for their efforts. Pictured here is home cook Sheena Haikal’s meals, featured on her Facebook page Sheena’s Cooking Passion. Clockwise from top left: chicken biryani, raita, chicken sambal and mutton varuval.

And share they have – the online sphere is now riddled with recipes on social media, recipe-sharing platforms, YouTube and cooking blogs. (Also read: Malaysian online cooking stars share their favourite recipes).

Within these platforms, some have thrived remarkably well and this in turn has spurred the birth of online cooking superstars, whose recipes and tutorials are eagerly-anticipated and emulated by today’s time-strapped generation who look to them as realistic models of what can be achieved in home kitchens.

Here are three in Malaysia who have found phenomenal success sharing their recipes with others.

Sheena Haikal

Sheena Haikal, 31, grew up surrounded by excellent cooks.

Her parents owned an Indian restaurant and her grandfather was a cook in a restaurant. Sheena began actively cooking in her teens.

Sheena uses her phone to take step-by-step videos and pictures of her food as she is cooking, and says that it only takes her about two hours to cook and post her recipes.

But it was only after giving birth to her son in 2015 that she started posting her recipes on a popular Malay online recipe-sharing platform.

Her recipes were instant hits. Spurred by that success, Sheena started a Facebook page called Sheena’s Cooking Passion in April 2016, documenting recipes from her impressive repository. The page now has over 160,000 followers and Sheena hasn’t spent a cent to boost her page.

Sheena’s recipes comprise delicious Indian offerings like her famous chicken biryani, butter chicken (a recipe that was shared 132,000 times), home-made spice mixtures, tandoori chicken, tamarind rice and mutton varuval. Since starting her page, she has shared over 200 recipes.

“For me, quantity doesn’t matter, quality does. If I post a fish sambal recipe, you can use any fish to make it. Some pages will post a sambal recipe for different fish – so the recipe is the same, the only difference is the fish. I can do that to make it seem like I have thousands of recipes, but I don’t want to do that,” she says.

As Sheena works full-time as an administrative executive, she only cooks after she gets home and on weekends. Her recipes are trawled from her mother’s arsenal as well as YouTube and Google, which she uses as inspiration before adding her own modifications.

Sheena cooks alone (although her mother and mother-in-law sometimes pitch in) and uses her phone to document the user-friendly step-by-step processes that she lists on her Facebook page. Sometimes, she does videos too.

“I’d usually cook on low heat, so I have time to take pictures. If I’m doing a video, I do it in pieces, and then cut and join everything in the end. I do everything with my phone; I think it’s easier. And the whole process only takes me about two hours – from cooking to posting,” says Sheena.

Like most popular personalities in the online world, Sheena sometimes gets negative feedback. She had had people complaining about a myriad of things – from the fact that she used to post her recipes in Malay to the way she adds salt with her hands.

Although Sheena usually works alone, her mother Julaigah Kassim (centre) and mother-in-law Saroja Subramaniam often help her with the cleaning up.

“I was about to quit. I was so depressed because there was so much negativity, but I decided to move on from that. Now I think if you like my recipes, you like it, if you don’t, you don’t,” she says.

Even more awe-inspiring is the fact that Sheena has remained altruistic and doesn’t want to monetise her popularity in any way.

“I was approached by a few companies to monetise my page, but I politely rejected them. I’m not here to make money. I want my followers to get the recipes free on Facebook,” she says.

Asked why people like her recipes, Sheena thinks it’s because her recipes are easy to follow, even for new cooks.

“I believe that my recipes are authentic. It’s back-to-basics, you don’t need fancy woks or expensive things to cook. And it’s very beginner-friendly, so even if you have zero knowledge on cooking, you can refer to my page,” she says.

Haziah Jaya

Haziah Jaya, better known as Azie, is a sweet, impeccably-groomed lady who is also a culinary powerhouse in the online world. The 50-something Azie grew up in Kelantan with a mother who made excellent kuih-muih, which she sold to restaurants. Azie was equally enamoured with food and started cooking and collecting recipes in primary school.

“When I go anywhere and taste anything delicious, I’d find ways to get that recipe. Sometimes I’d even track people down and get them to teach me,” she says.

Azie Kitchen

Azie’s daughter, Juita Amanda Abdul Ghani, is also a talented baker who helps her mother in the kitchen when she is home from studying abroad.

When Azie grew up, got married, and had her five children, cooking was relegated to festive occasions as she was understandably busy. It was only in 2011, when her kids were more grown up and she was established in her career as a manager with the central bank that she found the time to cook.

So she started a cooking blog called Azie Kitchen, at first as an attempt to document her recipes for her daughters. But the blog’s popularity soared (to date, it has had 172 million views), and Azie eventually diversified her reach, posting on Facebook and Instagram (she has over 100,000 followers on each platform) as well as sharing cooking videos on YouTube where she has over 20,000 subscribers.

Initially, Azie started out sharing traditional Kelantanese recipes like nasi kerabu, lompat tikam and ketupat sotong, mostly because she was frustrated by the poor Kelantanese fare in KL. Although her Kelantanese recipes are popular, she now also shares recipes for other Malay dishes like ikan cencaru sumbat, sambal ikan bilis Melaka and rendang ayam cili padi, among thousands of others. To date, she has shared over 2,000 recipes, all of which feature her detailed, step-by-step tutorials with accompanying images.

kuih akok

Azie has shared thousands of recipes on her blog, but recipes for Kelantanese food like kuih akok (pictured here) remain the most popular.

Azie posts recipes nearly every day and uses her phone to take videos for YouTube and a camera to take pictures of the food for her blog.

Her meals are photographed as they are, because her hungry family consumes the food soon after.

“I don’t have time to put props and decorate – as soon as it’s done, we eat. It’s real cooking,” she says.

Azie is also rigorous about checking measurements before posting her recipes. She says the agak-agak (guess-timation) method is the reason why so many heirloom recipes fail to be passed down through the generations.

“If you continue doing that, your children won’t be able to follow the recipes. When I do my recipes, I check the actual amount and write the actual amount. That’s why it’s very time-consuming, but if you really want to share your recipes, that should be the way,” she says.

While Azie has been able to monetise both her blog and her YouTube page, she gives back most of the money she earns in zakat.

“When I started, I didn’t want any financial gains. But now I believe that by earning, I am contributing back again,” she says.

Given Azie’s popularity, she has been offered numerous television deals (all of which she has turned down). She also gets recognised frequently at social occasions.

“Sometimes, at weddings, people come and take pictures with me instead of the bride and groom!” she says, giggling.

Lim Boon Ping

The affable Lim started cooking at 13 to feed his father and younger brother after his mother passed away.

But it was only after marrying his wife that he started cooking more frequently and posting photos of his food on his Facebook page.

Lim continues to invest in gadgets to upgrade the sound, lighting and visual quality of his videos as it’s his favourite format for posting recipes. — Photos: YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

After some encouragement from friends, Lim started a Facebook page called Cooking Ah Pa (Ah Pa means father and is what his son calls him) at the end of 2016 .

Six months ago, he started a dedicated YouTube cooking page, which is now his main focus as he prefers the video format.

Although Lim is a newbie on the scene, he already has over 10,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 10,000 subscribers on YouTube.

They are hooked on his Chinese dishes like quick-fry prawns with oyster sauce, sweet and sour pork, chicken with shiaoxing wine, Cantonese-style steamed garoupa and Chinese spinach soup (his most popular video, with over 170,000 views).

Interestingly, none of Lim’s videos have accompanying recipes – he merely provides a rough tutorial, and crazily enough, people seem to love it!

Lim Boon Ping

Lim is a prolific home cook who has posted 195 recipes on YouTube in a 200-day span

“To me, a recipe is not important for cooking. I prefer to give cooking ideas, because so many factors can affect how your dish turns out even if you follow a recipe – your stove, the utensils you use – all these things will make a difference,” he says.

Lim works full-time and is the president-elect of the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents, but he still cooks every day, as family bonding is important to him. That also explains why he is so prolific – he has posted 195 recipes in 200 days!

“Whatever is my dinner will go on YouTube”.

To improve the audio-visual quality of his videos, Lim has spent quite a bit of money on gadgets like a stabiliser and wireless microphone. Much of his learning has been through trial-and-error, including dropping a smartphone into boiling hot garlic oil while making a video!

“Compared to other YouTubers, my videos are some of the worst because I am an amateur. I’m slowly improving, ” he says.

But perfection is not one of Lim’s goals anyway. In fact, he doesn’t even bother hiding mistakes he makes while cooking.

“In my videos, there are many times where I say, ‘Eh, sorry I forgot to add that’ or ‘I should have done that’. I want to show what happens in a real kitchen. So with my videos, whether I succeed or fail, or I only reach 70%, that is what you’ll see,” he says.

Lim’s pragmatism extends to monetising his videos, which he did as soon as he could. “If I can make money doing something I enjoy, why not?” he says.

Lim thinks much of his unexpected success is due to his user-friendly material.

“I digest what the Chinese professional chefs are doing and make it simpler. I am trying to tell people that home-cooking is not as tough as you think it is,” he says.

Cannibalism used to be a popular medical remedy — here’s why humans don’t eat each other today

Cannibalism used to be a popular medical remedy — here’s why humans don’t eat each other today

Cannibalism is a clear taboo in our society. But, putting ethics aside, what are the other reasons why you should not eat other humans? The following is a transcript of the video.

Did you know that cannibalism used to be a popular medical remedy?

That’s right! In the 17th century, well before Advil Europeans would ingest ground up mummies for headaches. And human fat, blood, and bone were used to treat everything from gout to nosebleeds. 

Yet cannibalism is largely absent and morally frowned upon in today. But let’s forget the social quagmire. There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t eat people these days.

For starters, we now know that human meat is a surprisingly low source of calories compared to other red meat. According to one study human muscle contains about 1,300 calories per kilogram. That’s less than beef and nothing compared to bear and boar meat.

Now, you might think this would actually make human burgers a great low-cal alternative until you remember you’re probably trying to eat humans because you’re starving to death. So, low-cal is the opposite of what you want.

Plus it’s not worth taking the risk — if you can help it. Turns out, we carry some pretty nasty diseases that make 24-hour food poisoning look like the sniffles. Eat someone raw, and you risk contracting any blood-borne diseases they carried.

But even if you cook the meat, it still won’t always go well for you. Case in point are the Fore people of Papua New Guinea. They would eat the body and brain of deceased family members out of cultural tradition. But that practice stopped after hundreds of people died in the 1950s and ‘60s from an otherwise rare neurological disorder which they contracted from eating infected human brains.

Turns out, the brain tissue contained prions — deadly misfolded proteins that form spongy holes in your brain. They survive the cooking process and, if eaten, are highly contagious.

On the legal side of things, cannibalism falls into a gray area. Oddly enough, cannibalism itself is not illegal in the US or UK, but you probably committed some crime along the way to get that slab of meat.

Grave robbing, desecration of a corpse, murder, or maybe all of the above?

One exception that won’t put you behind bars, is if you eat … yourself! Yup, that’s a thing. It’s called autocannibalism.

The most common example today, called placentophagy, is when a woman eats her placenta after giving birth. The idea is that it can raise energy levels and reduce the risk of postpartum depression by stabilizing hormones. But the science is still out on whether there’s any real benefit.

Regardless, this ancient practice has recently found new life in Western culture. Kim Kardashian and Alicia Silverstone have reportedly done it. And there are numerous US companies that will grind your placenta into a powder so you can take it like any other vitamin supplement. 

But the CDC warns that even this cutting-edge form of cannibalism is a bad idea. Because it can transfer harmful bacteria from mother to child. 

So, if you have a hankering for human, maybe try some pork instead. After all — that’s what we taste like. Wait … we obviously mean: ACCORDING TO CANNIBALS ANYWAYS!

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