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Novels (fiction or non)

i
itryalot Jul 6, 2011 09:28 PM

Looking for some summer reads food related. Can be about chefs, food critics, whatever. I loved HEAT a few summers ago. Historical fiction or travelogues with food ties are great too. I have done the searches, just looking for some new ones.

  1. goodhealthgourmet Jul 6, 2011 10:20 PM

    i haven't yet gotten to Bourdain's latest - "Medium Raw" - but it's #1 on my list when i find the time to curl up with a book for pleasure.
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/730917
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/714496

    there's also Gabrielle Hamilton's "Blood, Bones & Butter."
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/768248

    1. ipsedixit Jul 6, 2011 10:26 PM

      Lots of good suggestions here:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546555
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/352719
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/750821

      1. j
        jlhinwa Jul 6, 2011 10:33 PM

        Last summer I read Ruth Reichl's memoirs, "Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table," "Comfort me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table," and "Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Restaurant Critic." I enjoyed them all; she has a good sense of humor and struck a nice balance between providing insider info about the food industry while not taking it too terribly seriously.

        I also read Jeffrey Steingarten's, "It Must Have Been Something I Ate." I would like to read his earlier book, "The Man Who Ate Everything," but last I checked I couldn't get it for my e-reader. He was fascinating to me and I now watch him as a judge on Iron Chef without getting annoyed by his grouchiness.

        For a really light fictional look at a restaurant on Nantucket during summer season, I enjoyed "The Blue Bistro" by Elin Hildebrand. Great escapist beach reading.

        10 Replies
        1. re: jlhinwa
          goodhealthgourmet Jul 6, 2011 10:47 PM

          FWIW, i'm struggling with The Man Who Ate Everything. i know this is going to sound like a strange criticism for a *book* but it's too wordy...i'm just not crazy about the writing style and i'm finding it tedious to get through.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
            j
            jlhinwa Jul 7, 2011 11:44 AM

            Hmmm....I am happy to know it is in kindle version now but am not sure I am as excited to read it now. He does have a painstakingly detailed way of documenting his food experiments. I definitely did some skimming on his other book but still enjoyed it.

          2. re: jlhinwa
            twyst Jul 6, 2011 11:04 PM

            Man who ate everything has a kindle version now for sure, I finished it a few weeks ago.

            I'm currently reading "The Sorcerer's Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià's elBulli"

            1. re: twyst
              l
              Luna2372 Jul 30, 2011 02:09 AM

              Ohh...I think I would like this. Although I've never eaten that type of food...I'm facinated by the process.

            2. re: jlhinwa
              w
              writergeek313 Jul 13, 2011 11:28 AM

              What I like about both of Jeffrey Steingarten's books is that they're easy to read in bits and pieces. I read The Man Who Ate Everything over a few library checkouts last summer, and I've been working on It Must Have Been Something I Ate in the same way this summer. I've always been amused by his judging on ICA, and his writing is bright and funny and shows the often ridiculous extents he's willing to go to in order to find his next perfect bite.

              I love Anthony Bourdain's voice and narrative style in his nonfiction. I'm tempted to read his mystery novel, though I'm worried it won't live up to my expectations.

              1. re: writergeek313
                Delucacheesemonger Jul 13, 2011 11:30 AM

                He has three mystery novels, and if you read the three in chronological order, you may see a great progression in his writing skills.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                  l
                  Luna2372 Jul 15, 2011 12:02 AM

                  I read them all and really liked them. True about the progression of writing...I do wish he'd write another one.

                  1. re: Luna2372
                    Berheenia Jul 18, 2011 01:19 PM

                    I loved "Gone Bamboo".

              2. re: jlhinwa
                t
                twilight goddess Aug 1, 2011 12:45 PM

                +1 Blue Bistro by Elin Hildebrand: I read Blue Bistro this summer and really enjoyed it too! I read it on the beach too. Yum. I was just envisioning those delectable picnics on the beach, plus the meals at the bistro, featuring summer goodies.

                Ruth Reichl's books are fantastic, in my opinion. I utterly enjoyed them all.

                1. re: twilight goddess
                  j
                  jlhinwa Aug 12, 2011 07:27 PM

                  Twilight goddess: I just read her book "The Love Season," also set in Nantucket. The main character is a former chef and there is lots of interesting food descriptions. I think I enjoyed the story of the Blue Bistro more, but it was another great read.

              3. l
                Lizard Jul 7, 2011 12:09 AM

                I love the title of this thread. All these fake memoirs have done a number on us, clearly leading to this new designation of the "non-fiction novel." Hilarious.

                As for some suggestions, I second 'Garlic and Sapphires' and also throw in some Jay Rayner with 'The Man Who Ate the World' (fun in doses) and his novel, 'The Apologist', which I read years ago. Food plays a much smaller role here as the story is about something else, but the descriptions are there.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Lizard
                  l
                  Luna2372 Jul 7, 2011 12:18 AM

                  Ok..I thought that was funny too..but didn't want to comment on it.

                  actually I was LMAO.

                  But to food books..."rememberance of things paris..60 years of Gourmet writing" R. Reichl" is not a novel.

                  "Blessed are the cheese makers" By Sarah-Kate Lynch is.

                2. buttertart Jul 7, 2011 09:39 AM

                  The New Yorker book on food and drink "Secret Ingredients" is a lot of fun (contains the best food-related cartoon ever, by Charles Addams). Also really enjoyed the divinely-titled "Food and Booze".

                  1. Gio Jul 7, 2011 11:35 AM

                    For Novels I'd recommend the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri. Set in Sicily and not specifically about food, the story line is laced liberally with descriptions of the Inspector's meals, both those cooked by his housekeeper and those served at his favorite trattoria. Also, there's a measure of comic relief. I've even managed to duplicate some of the recipes simply from the clear descriptions.

                    One other I like is a series set in Venice, the Commissario Brunetti series by Donna Leon is sophisticated writing at its best. The lunches his wife Paola cooks for the family are typical models for Italian regional cooking. The stories themselves are politically charged and insightful. These two series are poles apart, I'd say, but each is compelling in its own way.

                    In the non-fiction vein: I had a really hard time with Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. It was one book that i had to read in stages and force myself to finish. There's a thread on the boards with opinions of other Hounds who were reading it.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: Gio
                      buttertart Jul 7, 2011 11:39 AM

                      Hamilton makes Bourdain look like the least egotistical human imaginable in comparison.

                      1. re: buttertart
                        Gio Jul 7, 2011 11:41 AM

                        LOL.... I am woman. Hear me rant.

                        1. re: Gio
                          s
                          soupkitten Jul 10, 2011 08:19 AM

                          gah. i very much agree, Gio i had a tough time with hamilton's book as well. it's tough because i loved some of the writing earlier in the book and it's very vivid and memorable still, but i want a refund on the time i spent on the latter part of the book.

                          while i'm being a negative nelly, i also read "how to bake a perfect life" by barbara o'neil. i bought it because it looked potentially interesting and the book has some (baking) recipes. i would rec trying the recipes but skipping the novel, unless one is a fan of syrupy chick-lit. which i have no patience for, but ymmv-- again, i'm mad that once i begin a book i must finish it, and i spent time on "how to bake a perfect life" that i could have spent on "dead souls." but if "beaches" is your thing maybe you can read "how to bake a perfect life" and have a nice cry or something. . . :)

                      2. re: Gio
                        mucho gordo Jul 7, 2011 12:08 PM

                        Sounds similar to this one I posted 02.21.11 to another thread:
                        <<"The Monte Cristo Cover-up" by Johannes Mario Simmel is a somewhat light-hearted WW2 spy novel wherein the protagonist is a wealthy gentleman banker of German descent who lives in England and loves to cook elegant meals in times of crisis, gets caught up in espionage activities as an agent for England, France and Germany all at the same time. Exact measurements of ingredients are not included, just the menu and prep instructions.>>

                        1. re: mucho gordo
                          Gio Jul 7, 2011 01:45 PM

                          Hmmm... I'll have to search this out. Thanks, MG.

                          1. re: Gio
                            mucho gordo Jul 7, 2011 04:31 PM

                            Let me know if you have a problem finding it, Gio. It may be out of print. I recently finished rereading it and I'll gladly send you my copy if you can't find it.
                            http://www.alibris.com/search/books/q...

                            1. re: mucho gordo
                              Gio Jul 7, 2011 05:48 PM

                              Oh what a nice offer Mucho. Let me see what I come up with then I'll get back to you. This is just one of the many reasons I love coming here... Thank you so much.

                        2. re: Gio
                          Delucacheesemonger Jul 7, 2011 04:51 PM

                          If you like the Camilleri novels, and l love them, there is another similar series but not quite as gritty. Monsieur Pamplemousse by Michael Bond. He has a Bichon Frise dog named pommes frites. There are a bunch and all charming.

                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                            Gio Jul 7, 2011 06:00 PM

                            Many thanks for that recco Deluca. I'll look for Pamplemousse as well. Seems to me it's familiar.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                              buttertart Jul 8, 2011 12:20 PM

                              Is Bond English? Sounds like a lot of fun.

                              1. re: buttertart
                                Glencora Jul 8, 2011 12:23 PM

                                If it's the same Michael Bond who wrote the Paddington Bear series, he's very English.

                                1. re: Glencora
                                  buttertart Jul 8, 2011 12:28 PM

                                  Aha, I didn't know that - and of course there's always The Pallisers...

                            2. re: Gio
                              l
                              Luna2372 Jul 30, 2011 02:11 AM

                              I love the Donna Leon series. And I love how they eat.

                            3. Glencora Jul 7, 2011 02:06 PM

                              I just finished Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck (with Erol Munuz) about a chef on a private yacht belonging to fabulously rich Italians. It has food, travel, voyeurism... quite fun.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Glencora
                                i
                                itryalot Jul 7, 2011 02:15 PM

                                Sounds like a beach read. That's one!
                                The Commissario Brunetti one also looks promising; I will have to check it out on the threads.

                                1. re: itryalot
                                  Gio Jul 7, 2011 05:56 PM

                                  For those who are interested here are links to information regarding
                                  Moltovani:
                                  http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/andrea-camilleri/

                                  Brunetti:
                                  http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/l/d...

                                  1. re: Gio
                                    Gio Jul 12, 2011 12:44 PM

                                    I forgot to mention that last year a cookbook titled "Brunetti's Cookbook" was published by the best friend of author Donna Leon. There are excerpts from the series where the meals first originated. Leon's friend is a recipe writer/cook and was able to reconstruct the dishes. Naturally, I had to buy it and indeed have cooked a few of the recipes. They weren't exactly spectacular but fun to cook, tasty and well recieved.

                                    http://www.amazon.com/Brunettis-Cookb...

                                2. re: Glencora
                                  l
                                  Luna2372 Aug 12, 2011 11:21 PM

                                  I just finished reading "Mediterranean Summer"...I was torn between active drooling over the food and the descriptions of the places he was...and just plain sick at myself for being so envious of the lifestyle of the boat owners.

                                  Loved it...but now I want that life.

                                3. i
                                  itryalot Jul 7, 2011 02:13 PM

                                  A non-fiction novel can be a narrative presented as a historical fiction or as a personal recount. Hence, the title.
                                  Even though it traditionally is defined as a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, some of the newer genres of memoirs and biographies have that feeling. I know the difference FWIW.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: itryalot
                                    l
                                    lifeasbinge Jul 12, 2011 04:24 PM

                                    still not a novel. sorry.

                                    1. re: lifeasbinge
                                      l
                                      Luna2372 Jul 30, 2011 02:15 AM

                                      +1

                                  2. mcgeary Jul 8, 2011 08:02 PM

                                    Laurie Colwin's HOME COOKING is incredibly charming.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: mcgeary
                                      nomadchowwoman Jul 24, 2011 08:46 AM

                                      +1--and More Home Cooking equally so.

                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman
                                        buttertart Jul 24, 2011 09:04 AM

                                        Absolutely, such a shame she's gone.

                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman
                                          Delucacheesemonger Jul 30, 2011 06:04 AM

                                          Try her non-food stuff as well, especially 'Family Happiness'.

                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                            Sue in Mt P Aug 12, 2011 10:50 AM

                                            I so love her books. I read them when I'm in need of comfort.

                                      2. Berheenia Jul 9, 2011 05:07 AM

                                        "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver is a funny book about a family going locavore that will make you want to have a garden or join a CSA. The recipes got me back into making my own pizza.
                                        Another good back to the earth book is "The Dirty Life" by Kristin Kimball about her life changing over night from urban vegetarian princess to a woman who butchers her own food when when she falls in love a farmer. There aren't recipes but this will make you want to run to the Farmers Market and stop complaining about the prices!
                                        I just finished a Jane Green book that was sad and funny with some great looking recipes. It is called "Promises to Keep". I wish it hadn't been on hold at the library or I would have tried several of the recipes before returning it.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Berheenia
                                          l
                                          Luna2372 Jul 9, 2011 11:52 PM

                                          Love AVM- changed the way I cook and eat. The 30 minute mozzarella is now a staple in our house.

                                          I will look for Kristin Kimball's, and Jane Green's.

                                          1. re: Luna2372
                                            Berheenia Jul 27, 2011 06:12 AM

                                            Today's New York Times has an interesting article about Steven Hopp, co-author of AVM with Barbara Kingsolver. It appears they have continued with their quest for local food consumption by opening a restaurant and a general store in Meadowville VA and it is a hard sell in that community.

                                            1. re: Berheenia
                                              l
                                              Luna2372 Jul 30, 2011 02:16 AM

                                              Restaurants are hard to get started at the best of times, must be doubley hard to stay true to theme.

                                          2. re: Berheenia
                                            t
                                            twilight goddess Aug 1, 2011 12:58 PM

                                            Berheenia,

                                            I read Promises to Keep last summer and was just about to add it to the list here, with an enthusiastic endorsement. Great for summer :)

                                          3. mickie44 Jul 10, 2011 08:24 AM

                                            If you have never read Calvin Trillin's books, now is the time. They pair travel with food. In fact, one of his books is where I first heard of Chowhound.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: mickie44
                                              roxlet Jul 12, 2011 11:55 AM

                                              Alice, Let's Eat is one of my favorite Trillin books. I think it's the one where, while in Italy, he refers to his wife as La Principessa to the hotel desk clerk. Love this book. I have to re-read it.

                                              1. re: roxlet
                                                i
                                                itryalot Jul 12, 2011 04:09 PM

                                                I am going to look up Calvin too. Sounds like a perfect pairing.

                                            2. l
                                              lifeasbinge Jul 12, 2011 04:22 PM

                                              If it's non-ficiton, it's not a novel.

                                              1. w
                                                Westy Jul 13, 2011 06:06 AM

                                                I am surprised no one has mentioned Nero Wolfe. His cook, Fritz, is a recurring character. They even came out with a cookbook for the series. Yes...I have it. Yes...I am a nerd.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Westy
                                                  Gio Jul 13, 2011 07:31 AM

                                                  This reminds me of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings who is famous as the author of such literature as "The Yearling" and "Cross Creek". It was her love of cooking that led her to write "Cross Creek Cookery". The link below brings you to further information about her life and career and a few recipes from the book.

                                                  1. re: Gio
                                                    w
                                                    Westy Jul 13, 2011 07:34 AM

                                                    Hi Gio -

                                                    Maybe I am missing the link?

                                                    1. re: Westy
                                                      Gio Jul 13, 2011 08:23 AM

                                                      Well, of course you are cuz I forgot to post it... OOPS!
                                                      http://monthsofediblecelebrations.blo...

                                                2. onceadaylily Jul 13, 2011 12:42 PM

                                                  During a recent power outage, I decided to re-read an old Amy Tan novel: The Kitchen God's Wife. Though the tale concentrates on family and culture, as her novels do, I had forgotten how much, and how well, she wrote of food in that one. And it is a lovely book.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: onceadaylily
                                                    l
                                                    Luna2372 Jul 15, 2011 12:14 AM

                                                    If you like the novels of Joanne Harris..."Chocolat" "Blackberry Wine' and "Five Quarters of the Orange" you might also like "Blessed are the Cheesemaker's" by Sarah-Kate Lynch is a funny read about 2 grumpy Irishmen with a cheese factory.

                                                    1. re: onceadaylily
                                                      v
                                                      Val Jul 17, 2011 05:16 PM

                                                      I think I've read ALL of Amy Tan's books...and whatever happened to her???Did she stop writing? LOVED her style....really loved it. EDIT: she's been battling Lyme Disease for quite a while...poor dear...she's a gifted writer, I think.

                                                      1. re: Val
                                                        onceadaylily Jul 26, 2011 11:47 AM

                                                        Oh, that's sad to hear about Ms. Tan. I had the same thought when I picked the book up again, but failed to follow through.

                                                        And thanks for the recommendations, Luna (I really liked Five Quarters of the Orange). I've added two of those to my library list.

                                                    2. a
                                                      Arcadiaseeker Jul 15, 2011 10:01 AM

                                                      Canadian novel, Stanley Park by Timothy Taylor - wonderful kind of gritty book about a chef in Vancouver Canada with a passion for food whose nemesis is a coffee mogul who wants to buy his restaurant....loved this book.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Arcadiaseeker
                                                        buttertart Jul 15, 2011 10:59 AM

                                                        Thanks for this, always have one eye out for good Canadian fiction.

                                                        1. re: Arcadiaseeker
                                                          mickie44 Jul 15, 2011 07:29 PM

                                                          Yes, I totally enjoyed that book and had forgotten about it.

                                                        2. n
                                                          nc213 Jul 17, 2011 09:00 AM

                                                          I'm teaching a course on food and literature in the fall, and I rarely see the books below on these food reading threads. Some novels from my syllabus include:

                                                          Nervous Conditions--Tsetse Dangarembga
                                                          The Inheritance of Loss--Kiran Desai
                                                          My Year of Meats--Ruth Ozeki
                                                          Down and Out in Paris and London--George Orwell
                                                          The Book of Salt--Monique Truong

                                                          Some memoirs:
                                                          Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes--Shoba Narayan (a memoir of growing up in India)
                                                          Pigtails and Breadfruit--Austin Clarke (a memoir of growing up in Barbados)

                                                          FWIW, novels really and truly can't be nonfiction. There are certainly long nonfiction works, but they are not novels. A narrative presented as fiction is either fiction or memoir--a novel is, by definition, fiction, difficulties of classifying Truman Capote aside (and In Cold Blood is Most certainly a novel).

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: nc213
                                                            Delucacheesemonger Jul 17, 2011 10:28 AM

                                                            Thanks for mentioning the Toklas/Stein chef book, 'The Book of Salt'. A wonderful read. Author is a delight as well.

                                                            1. re: nc213
                                                              l
                                                              Luna2372 Jul 18, 2011 09:02 PM

                                                              Thank you for that...I thought I was going to get drummed out if I pursued it. But I agree.

                                                              I have "The Book of Salt" On order from my library.
                                                              Read "Down and Out in Paris and London" every winter...along with "A Moveable Feast"...it helps pass the long nights.

                                                              And I wil look for the "Monsoon Diary"

                                                              Thank for the suggestions and good luck on your course it sounds wicked cool.

                                                              1. re: Luna2372
                                                                n
                                                                nc213 Jul 21, 2011 08:49 AM

                                                                Ha--one of my syllabus decisions was between Down and Out and A Moveable Feast!

                                                                Another book I tried out but that didn't make the syllabus was Diana Abu-Jaber's Crescent. it's set in a Iraqi-Lebanese Cafe in a Persian neighborhood of Los Angeles. The food descriptions are truly lovely.

                                                                I haven't read but am intrigued by Pomegranate Soup, a novel about Iranian immigrants who open a restaurant in a small town in Ireland. I can't remember the author, but it's easily google-able.

                                                                1. re: nc213
                                                                  buttertart Jul 21, 2011 09:04 AM

                                                                  I loved Abu-Jaber's memoir "The Language of Baklava". Didn't like "Crescent" nearly as well. She has a new book coming out in September, oh boy!

                                                                  1. re: nc213
                                                                    l
                                                                    Luna2372 Jul 30, 2011 02:00 AM

                                                                    Marsha Mehan wrote "Pomegranate Soup" and "Rosewater and Soda Bread", I have read them both, and really liked them..."Pomegranate Soup" being my favorite of the two.

                                                                    I got a great feel for Iranian cooking and have adapted a few recipes since then.

                                                                    Thanks for the "Crescent" .

                                                                    1. re: nc213
                                                                      l
                                                                      Luna2372 Aug 12, 2011 11:18 PM

                                                                      I have just started "Crescent", and I am savouring it. Slowly one chapter at a time.
                                                                      It is so rich.

                                                                      Thank-you for bringing it to my attention.

                                                                  2. re: nc213
                                                                    onceadaylily Jul 26, 2011 11:53 AM

                                                                    I just thought that I would add that, while I thought My Year of Meats really was an impressive book, it focuses on the meat industry in such a way that might dismay those with a weak stomach for such things (I was glad that I had read it though). All Over Creation, by the same author, focuses on agri-bus as well, but, if I'm remembering correctly, with details not nearly as graphic as her first book (but I felt that the first book really was better written).

                                                                    I'll definitely check out some of those other books, nc213. Thanks you.

                                                                    1. re: nc213
                                                                      i
                                                                      itryalot Aug 14, 2011 06:40 AM

                                                                      I concur. Put nicely.

                                                                    2. Berheenia Jul 21, 2011 10:24 AM

                                                                      This thread made me revisit "The Omnivore's Dilemma" which I just finished and thoroughly enjoyed. It's not as cutting edge today as when it was first published but is still quite spell binding in a scary way!
                                                                      (I had started to read when it was first published and a best seller but I never got past the early chapters on corn it was on a long hold list so it went back to the library)

                                                                      1. l
                                                                        Luna2372 Jul 30, 2011 02:28 AM

                                                                        Thank-you to everyone for these great suggestions. With the dog days of summer here it will be nice to read about food...while eating only cold fruit and bread and cheese and drinking the bubbly.

                                                                        Also thanks to all the library ppl in the world. You keep us civilized.

                                                                        1. t
                                                                          twilight goddess Aug 1, 2011 01:20 PM

                                                                          **Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries by Bharti Kirchner

                                                                          Sunya, an independent young single entrepreneur with her own bakery in Seattle, battles the big yucky corporate bakery trying to edge her out of business. Entertaining. I read this last summer.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: twilight goddess
                                                                            buttertart Aug 2, 2011 11:14 AM

                                                                            Interesting - I didn't know Kirchner wrote novels, I loved her Bengali cookbook (lots of background info - was given it by my SIL, who's from Kolkata).

                                                                          2. pikawicca Aug 12, 2011 07:36 PM

                                                                            Sorry, but novels are by long-standing definition fiction.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: pikawicca
                                                                              l
                                                                              Luna2372 Aug 12, 2011 11:12 PM

                                                                              True that.

                                                                            2. WCchopper Aug 13, 2011 12:03 AM

                                                                              The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry is a novel that I found interesting. i think I read it within a couple of days. I recommend.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: WCchopper
                                                                                l
                                                                                Luna2372 Aug 13, 2011 12:09 AM

                                                                                Oh ..that looks lovely.

                                                                                ta

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