Yesterday's Menus

Cooking up retro menus from vintage cookbooks

1973 Institutional Food

You may have guessed by the title of this post, that this was not my favorite retro meal.  I decided to revisit the 1973 Curtin Publications recipe card series with this:

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I selected this recipe card based on the fact that I had some leftover Chinese fried noodles that I wanted to use up.  In retrospect, this is probably not the best criteria for menu selection.

All of the ingredient seem perfectly fine and normal by themselves, but I started to get concerned when I saw them combined in the pan.

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It had a weird, sickly glow.  My husband remarked that he was pretty sure the cat deposited the same thing on the floor earlier.  Thanks dear.

Now for the results:


The melon balls look pretty nice.  (Side note:  Is it even possible to make round melon balls with melon baller?  I’m going to say probably not).

It wasn’t as bad as it looked.  Perfectly edible. Not particularly good, but not particularly bad.  The Sweden of the dinner hour.  The Holiday Inn of dishes.  A mediocre meal of mid-century.  This meal contributed calories without any pesky distractions, such as taste.

In good news, angel food cake never disappoints:



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1971 Beans on a Budget


Have you met this cute little guy yet?  I’ve seen his little grinning face multiple times while browsing through vintage recipes on the internet.  It’s from a card collection with the copyright date 1973 from Curtin Publications, Inc.  My set is a reprint that my husband bought for a Christmas a few years ago. My favorite part about these cards is that they all feature a suggested menu!  Not having to decide what to serve saves me time and energy for all of the important things I have to think about.  Such as convincing my toddler that he has to eat from more than one food group.  (So far, a no go).

As cute as the Seafood Mousse is, I tragically lack a fish mold. Instead, I’ve made this:



I’d like to assume that as a 70s housewife, I would have just shuffled this deck and pulled out a card at random.  Billy doesn’t like beans?  Sorry Billy, random chance has spoken.  Now eat your beans.  (Full disclosure, “Billy” didn’t eat his beans). 😦

The results:

IMG_4819Pretty close to the picture!  I put a tomato in my cart for the salad, but it somehow vanished by the time I got home.  I used the fruit cup in place of the flowers, but did vaguely consider buying a ton of tchotchkes to mimic 1970s food styling.

The suggested dessert of applesauce spice cake isn’t included in the card collection, but fortunately I have a great recipe courtesy of my favorite retro cookbook author, Meta Given.


Not much too look at, but super yummy.  The whole menu turned out great, leaving me with nothing to make fun of.  Phooey!  I’ll have to try another one from this collection.

103 Apple Sauce Cake

1 3/4 c. cake flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. shortening

1 c. sugar

1 c. unsweetened tart, stiff apple sauce (261)

1 c. seedless raisins

Sift flour, measure, and resift 3 times with soda, spices, and salt.  Cream shortening well and gradually blend in sugar.  Stir in the apple sauce.  Add flour mixture gradually, beating after each addition until well blended.  Stir in raisins.  Turn into a buttered cake pan (8 in. square), which has been lined with waxed paper in the bottom, and bake at 375 for 45 to 50 minutes.  Cool before serving.  Apple sauce cake improves with age, if kept in a breadbox.  6 servings.  (It took about 20 minutes for the cupcakes and make 12).

136 Thin Butter Icing 

2 TBSP. butter

1 c. sifted confectioners sugar, firmly packed

1 1/2 TBSP. milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter well, and add sugar and milk alternately, a little at a time, stirring until smooth after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.  When smooth, pour over the cake; let it stand a few hours, if possible, before cutting.  Sufficient for one 8-in. layer.


1965 Ad Time: Chicken Crunch

Today’s recipe comes from the October 1965 edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.


I picked up a bunch of old magazines from an estate sale, so I’m thinking about a series on magazine ad recipes, because they are something.  In fact I think the ads interested me more than the articles in this magazine.  Here are a few of my favs:


Murder!! Duhh, duhh, DUHH!



Want!  I have the Birthdays and Celebrations and Meals in Minutes, but I could use the rest.

Now for the ad inspiring today’s menu:


Mmm…Cream of Mushroom.  After the nightmare that was cream of shrimp soup, I felt the need to find a recipe to redeem our good friend in a can.  This was totally it.  I made the ad implied menu of peas and sweet potatoes to go with it.  The results:


Crunchy, creamy, easy.  This is one tasty chicken recipe that transcends the decades.  I’m making this one again.

By the way, the peas were just buttered peas, but I got the sweet potato recipe from my favorite cook book author, Meta Given, from her 1955 Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking and it was so good, it almost stole the show from the star.

Chicken Crunch

1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

3/4 cup milk

1 TBSP. finely chopped onion

1 TBSP. chopped parsley

2 lbs. chicken parts

1 cup finely crushed packaged herb-seasoned stuffing (or 1 cup dry breadcrumbs mixed with 1/2 tsp. each poultry seasoning and salt)

2 TBSP. melted butter or margarine

Mix 1/3 cup soup, 1/4 cup milk, onion and parsley.  Dip chicken in soup mixture; then roll in stuffing or bread crumb mixture.  Place in shallow baking dish (12x8x2″).  Drizzle butter on chicken.  Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.  Meanwhile, combine remaining soup and milk; heat; stir now and then.  Serve over chicken.  4 to 6 servings.

Honeyed Sweet Potatoes

1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes

1 tsp. salt

3 TBSP. butter or margarine

1/2 cup honey

2 TBSP. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. lemon rind

1/2 tsp. salt

1 TBSP. maraschino cherries

Wash, pare and cut potatoes into crosswise slices 1/2 inch thick.  Sprinkle with the salt and brown both sides of the slices carefully in the hot butter.  Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Combine the next 4 ingredients and pour over the potatoes.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.  Garnish with cherries.  Serve immediately.  4 servings.

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Party Time (or the hazard of being my guest)

It was my turn to host Ladies Book Club and I decided to go with a retro menu (surprise, surprise). I selected recipes that were probably going to be good, but I didn’t test them beforehand.  Hence the hazard of coming to my house.

This meeting’s book was To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.  It was universally paned by the club (thank goodness because I couldn’t finish it).  I likened it to being trapped with a person who abhors silence and fills the void with inane information about people I couldn’t care less about.  In any case, here’s the spread:


The menu was inspired by the series that Retro Ruth at The Mid-Century Menu is doing with Emily Marshall, the food-stylist for The Astronaut Wives Club.  I don’t usually do much to garnish or fancy-up food I make, but after seeing this, I wanted to give it a go.  I just had to make the cheese ball porcupine featured in the post!


So cute!  I think Emily’s take with the pretzels was even cuter!  (Okay, everything she makes is cuter than what I usually turn out; I’m not the most visual person in the world).  The recipe was pretty tasty, but I think your actual enjoyment will depend upon how much you like blue cheese.  I enjoy it in moderation so a small serving was good; a big serving would have out-blued my taste buds.  If you haven’t already read the series on Mid-Century Menu or viewed Emily’s Instagram, check them out!

Next up is the Classic California Dip (with Lipton Onion Soup) served with veggies and chips.


This I liked.  I could eat quite a bit of this stuff.  (Now that I think about it though–this needs some parsley or at least some green olives to jazz it up–oh well).  In retrospect, I’m surprised I’ve never had this before.

For sweets, I made jelly roll cake with whipped cream and berries:


The recipe is from my favorite cook book author, Meta Givens.  I loved this; it was super quick and easy to make (for a cake).  Definitely making it again.

I also made chocolate chip cookies.  While technically not from a retro recipe, it had one of the key elements that makes vintage recipes great: a branded and not really necessary ingredient.  In this case, Jell-o instant vanilla pudding.


While not necessary (since I’ve made chocolate chip cookies every time previously without), these were fantastic cookies; soft, moist and they kept well.  Next time I make chocolate chip cookies, it will be with this recipe.  My conversion to retro cook is nearly complete; I just need to get rid of the quinoa and goat cheese and reduce the amount of curry powder I use by 200%.  The recipe is on the Kraft website here.  I’m am in no way associated with Kraft nor paid for my endorsement (but feel free to think about it Kraft.  I’ll even take down my scathing review of your horrible barbeque sauce.  I mean, delicious barbeque sauce).

The California Dip got me thinking:  What retro uber-classics have I not enjoyed yet?

I’ve had:

California dip!

deviled eggs

Watergate salad

tuna-noodle casserole

green bean casserole

I need to try:

frosted ribbon sandwich

strawberry pretzel salad

tomato aspic

Impossible cheeseburger pie

Better than Sex Cake

Tang pie

Knorr spinach dip in a bread bowl

chiffon cake

tomato soup cake

I’m rather shocked looking at the classics I haven’t tried and I’m sure there’s lots I’m forgetting.  What else should be on my list?


1965 BH&G Supper in No Time Flat!


Speedy Tuna Skillet*

Mexican-style corn      chopped broccoli

chilled asparagus spears and Mayonnaise French dressing*      coleslaw

Marshmallow Cupcakes* and chilled canned peaches    Melba Sundaes

*recipe provided (italicized item selected)

I’ve made a breakfast menu from my gold souvenir edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book previously and it went well so I decided to try another.  Now, I believe I’ve previously mentioned that when I select recipes to make for this blog, I have every reason to suspect that there is a good chance I will like it.  This Speedy Tuna skillet has ingredients I love individually: “cream of” soup, tuna, peas, onion, all served on a bed of rice.  How can this fail? (Note the foreshadowing…)

The ingredients:


The first moment of concern came when I noticed that the cream of shrimp soup was pink.  Rather pink.  As much as I enjoy “cream of” soups, I’ve never had the shrimp version.  Also, there was a notable fishy smell.


As plated:  (Note that the coleslaw is missing.  I did make it and it sat lonely and forgotten in the refrigerator).


Also, the broccoli color is a bit off, but I think the main dish detracts attention from that flaw.  I just couldn’t finish this.  I think it would have been fine with cream of mushroom or chicken, but the shirmp-ish flavor was bad and combined with the tuna to deliver a harbor stink of epic proportions.

On to dessert:


No complaints about the canned peaches, but the marshmallow cupcake didn’t pan out.  I make the cupcakes from a Jiffy mix and topped with marshmallows.  The marshmallows melted all over the pan and some even melted on the cupcakes.  The marshmallows never quite toasted, but the cupcakes did overbake.  Perhaps I needed more direction on this one than was provided…

Speedy Tuna Skillet

1 medium onion, sliced

1 TBSP butter or margarine

1 can frozen condensed cream of shrimp soup (frozen? I looked but saw no such product)

1/2 cup milk

1 cup frozen or drained canned peas

1 6 1/2 or 7 or 9 1/4 ounce can tuna, broken into chunks

Cook onion in butter till almost tender.  Add soup, milk and peas; cover and heat just to boiling, stirring occasionally.  Add tuna and dash pepper.  Heat through.

Serve over warm, crisp chow-mein noodles or hot rice.  Makes 4 servings.

Marshmallow Cupcakes

Top hot baked cupcakes each with marshmallow.  Put back in oven till marshmallows melt and toast.


1987 Toddler Time

Wednesday menu for an 18 to 24 month old:

Breakfast: open-face toasted cheese, orange juice

Snack: apple slices

Lunch: Pastina with Cheese and Vegetables*, milk

Snack: Peanut ‘n’ Jam Square*, milk

Dinner: Brown Rice Paella*, leafy green salad, juice

*recipe provided

Today’s menu comes from the 1987 Baby Let’s Eat by Rena Coyle.  How exciting for my toddler that he gets to be roped into mama’s retro food obsession.  (Baby, I’ve got Better Homes and Gardens’ 1963 teen “Burger-que” bookmarked for when your older.  Don’t forget to invite the gang! I won’t embarrass you…much).

This 1987 cookbook isn’t all that much difference than a current baby food book except for now déclassé recommendations for juice and an obsession with overweight toddlers.  I could only imagine pint-sized Jazzercisers with adorable headbands every time she brought it up.

On to breakfast:


The results:


While my son didn’t provide verbal feedback, he ate all of his first half that I gave him (minus the crust) and a good amount of the second half I gave him after him scarfed the first serving.

Snack:  Slight snafu.  My husband took the little guy to Costco and returned reporting that he really enjoyed the pizza and free samples.  Nutritional sigh.  I ate the apple.



Quick and easy dish.  I couldn’t find anything labeled pastina in the store but a Google search told me that it was small pasta so I went with macaroni.  I even saved a sliced of apple just in case.



No dice on the apple, but the pasta was so popular, he required a refill.  In fact, while I was cleaning up, I noticed he was under the table eating bits he had dropped.  Less to clean up?

Afternoon snack:


I gave him two pieces.  I may have erred a bit in letting him eat it while sitting on the floor playing with Megablocks.



He finished approximately one piece and the vacuum was required.  I thought it was great (other than than being mess-tastic).


Sadly, a complete fail.  The listed cooking time was one hour.  An hour and a half in, I still had very crunchy rice and one grumpy baby (and husband). We had burritos from the freezer instead.  An additional hour later, the paella was finally done.  I refrigerated it for dinner the next night:




Still a fail.  The apple juice was acceptable.  He rearranged, but didn’t eat the salad.  He had a few bites of the paella, but not much.  I found the paella to be bland and boring.

Overall, I enjoyed the day and the little guy seemed to like the food quite well.  I plan on trying a few more recipes from this book (with short cooking times).

Pastina with Cheese and Vegetables

1/2 cup pastina

1 cup milk

1/4 lb muenster cheese, grated or cut into small pieces

2 large eggs

1/2 cup cooked peas, mashed (I skipped the mashing)

1/2 cup diced cooked carrots

1 medium tomato, cored, and coarsely chopped

1. In a medium pot, bring 2 cups water to a boil; stir in the pastina.  Cook until just soft, about 5 minutes.  Drain the pastina and set aside.

2.  Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the milk.  When it begins to simmer, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheese, until it melts.  Whisk in the eggs.  Place the pot over low heat and whisk until the sauce thickens, 5 to 7 minutes.

3.  Remove the pot from the heat.  Stir in the pastina and cooked vegetables.  Cool slightly and serve.

Peanut ‘n’ Jam Squares

1 cup all-natural chunky peanut butter

3/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed

2 large eggs

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup finely ground unsalted nuts or sesame seeds (I used sesame seeds)

1/2 cup fruit-sweetened jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, using whole wheat flour.

2.  In a mixing bowl, blend the peanut butter and juice concentrate together.  Add the eggs and blend thoroughly.  Add the flours, baking soda, and baking powder to the bowl.  Fold in the nuts or sesame seeds.

3.  Pat the dough in the prepared pan and spread it evenly.  Spread the jam over the dough.  Bake until the cake pulls away from the pan, about 35 minutes.

4.  When the cake has cooled slightly, remove it from the pan and cut into 1-inch squares.  Wrap them in plastic, store in an airtight container or freeze.

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2nd annual pieathalon

When Yinzerella from Dinner is Served 1972 invited me to participate in the 2nd Annual Pieathalon, I was totally in.  I mean, who doesn’t like pie?  As the assignment loomed near, I began to get a little nervous.  There’s a lot of good retro pie recipes, but then again what if I got a vintage horror with hot dogs, gelatine, pickles or Spam (or all of the above?!)

And dice roll:  Rose’s Pasta Cheese Pie.  Big exhale.  I got pasta!  And cheese! (and not even pimento or American!).  What luck! 

This beauty is from Saucy Cherie at Cookbook Cherie.  She writes:

“Here is my beloved submission:
Rose’s Pasta Cheese Pie is retro, but ’80s retro. I clipped the recipe from a magazine in the early 1980s from my favourite restaurant at the time, 4th Street Rose. It was my city’s first California casual resto, with then-mind-blowing fusion and healthy California cuisine. And it was the hottest spot in the city for years.
This rich, savoury pie was legend. Great for brunch, for lunch or for a summer night’s dinner. Paired with a green, puckery salad and a gorgeous glass of wine, it makes a great meal. Better if you are hearing Culture Club or The Police in the background!
I like to think the recipe was inspired by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse or some wonderful California hot spot, as the creator of this recipe made frequent reconnaissance trips there.
It’s tempting to add something more to this dish: thyme, other veggies, trendier cheese, caramelized onions. But just try it on its own and savour its simplicity. Best served barely warmed/room temperature.”

Pasta Cheese Pie

It sounded fantastic, but a bit intimidating.  With most of the recipes I make, I can just make fun of the Kraft or the random community cookbook submitter if the recipe goes wrong, but Cherie knows how this one should look so if it fails, it’s all on me.  And who wants to destroy someone’s beloved recipe?

With that kind of pressure, I decided to make my pie for a girl’s movie night (Now and Then) and potluck.  That way, my dearest friends can make fun of me first if I flub the recipe.

Now for the results:

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As plated:


Yeah, it was delicious.  Simple, but rich and satisfying. It disappeared quickly.  I followed the recipe to a T and I pretty sure I didn’t dishonor Cherie’s beloved memory (hopefully).  Thanks for the awesome submission Saucy Cherie!

Check out the rest of the Pieathaletes!


1965 BH&G Breakfast in a Hurry

Today’s menu comes from the 1965 Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (the gold souvenir edition commemorating the sale of 10 million copies).  I enjoy the suggested menus because it gives a choice of two options in each category; I feel like I have a choice but not too many.  Kinda like a choose your own adventure meal.


Melon Wedges and Grapes or Berries

Spicy Coffee Ring      Assorted Warmed Rolls

In Main Dish     Lime Wedges

Coffee     Cafe au Lait

I chose this meal based on the words “Spicy Coffee Ring.”  How could that disappoint?  Unfortunately, when I looked at the recipe, it called for refrigerated biscuits.  The distance between homemade and canned biscuits is a wide desert separated by a fairly large chasm in my opinion.  However, I’ve got to hand it to BH&G.  This recipe managed to turn a sad ingredient into something I was rather happy to eat.  Look at this (ignoring the odd effect of a blue potholder underneath):


As plated:


Nice.  As a bonus, this takes just about at the max amount of time I’m willing to spend on preparing breakfast in the morning (very little).

Spicy Coffee Ring

Perfect California walnut halves

1 package refrigerated biscuits

melted butter or margarine

1/3 cup brown sugar.

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 TBSP. seedless raisins

Place ring of walnut halves in greased 5 1/2 cup ring mold.  Dip biscuits in melted butter, then in mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon.  Place in mold, overlapping slightly.  Tuck raisins between biscuits.  Bake in hot oven (425 degrees) 13 to 15 minutes.


1965 Betty Makes Pizza and I question my life choices


Pizza Potatoes

olive tree

lettuce, cucumber and radish salad with vinegar and oil

I dipped back into the fascinating volume of Betty Crocker’s Dinner in a Dish for tonight’s menu.

Dinner in a Dish

This wasn’t really a menu per se, but I’m reading Betty’s suggestion loud and clear in this picture:

pizza potatoes

The pizza potato recipe was fairly straight-forward.  Just a few ingredients:


Note the proud “20% MORE” exclamation on Betty’s package of potatoes.  Stupid supersizing messing with my retro recipes!

On to the olive tree.  Since this wasn’t an actual recipe, I had to use my limited crafting skills.  I started off by cutting of the bottom and top of a carrot and nuked it for a couple of minutes so it would be soft enough to shove toothpicks through.


This is where I started to have concerns about my sanity.  Also, my son was doing this while I was voodoo-dolling the carrot:


I think he was trying to get my attention.  Sadly for him, I just took a picture and moved on to this:

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Edible garnish or cry for help?  You decide.

To the results!


At this point, the olive tree had a decided lean and I had to prop it up with additional toothpicks.  This is it’s “good” side.

It any case, the pizza potatoes were pretty delish.  They tasted quite convincingly of pizza.  I don’t want to guess at the saturated fat/sodium levels on this thing but it has tons of inner (and outer) kid appeal.  The salad and olives rounded out the meal nicely.  I did make my son a dish of his favorite veggie, peas, to go with his because he puts up with his wacky mother.

Are you in good health?  Blood pressure levels within normal parameters?  Then go ahead and try this!

Pizza Potatoes

1 pkg. of our scalloped potatoes

1 can (1 lb.) tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water

1/4 tsp. crushed oregano

1 pkg. (4 oz.) sliced pepperoni

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Empty potato slices and seasoned sauce mix into baking dish, 9x9x2″.  Heat tomatoes, water, and oregano to boiling.  Pour over potatoes, stir until well mixed.  Arrange pepperoni on top and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake uncovered 30 to 35 min.  Garnish with hot peppers, if desired. 4 servings.  (Note:  due to the larger box of potatoes and the slightly less than 1 lb. can of tomatoes, I upped the water to 2 cups and it worked fine).

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1965 Betty’s Dinner Fiesta


Sombrero Pie

Avocado-Orange Salad

Ripe and Green Olives

Scoops of Assorted Fruit Sherberts

Chocolate Sauce     Coffee

Dinner in a Dish

This “internationally inspired” menu comes from the 1965 Betty Crocker’s Dinner in a Dish.  From the cover of this cookbook, I assumed there would be some sort of chafing dish required, but no.  This book has dinners in any old type of dish.  Despite the lack of real theme, this one is full of easy retro dishes.

I selected Sombrero Pie for the name alone.  I mean, Sombrero Pie?  Betty, you’re clever and you can cook.  Also, you don’t exist.

Betty’s version:


Without further ado, the results:


My rating? Total home-run.  This is a great combination of easy and family friendly.  Even for the pastry-challenged (ahem, me), this cornmeal pastry was super easy to work with and had an excellent, corn-y texture.  The salad and olives matched well with the dish.

I did skip the chocolate sauce and coffee but had some mango sorbet for dessert which was nice and light after a heavier main dish.  Quite a successful meal in my opinion.  Brava Betty!

Sombrero Pie

1/2 lb. ground beef

1/2 lb. ground fresh pork

1 large onion, sliced

1 can (1 lb. 4 oz) tomato juice

1 can (12 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained, or 1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen corn

1 to 2 TBSP chili powder

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook and stir meat and onion in large skillet until onion is tender and meat is browned.  Stir in tomato juice, corn, and seasonings.  Simmer 10 min.  Pour bubbly hot meat mixture into oblong baking dish, 11 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 1 1/2″.  Cover with pastry.  Bake 30 to 35 min.  4 to 6 servings. 

Cornmeal Pastry:

1 1/4 c. Gold Medal Flour (regular or Wondra)

1/2 c. cornmeal

1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. salad oil

3 TBSP. cold water

Mix flour, cornmeal, and salt.  Mix in oil until mixture looks like fine crumbs.  Sprinkle with water and mix with fork.  Press firmly into a ball.  If too dry to form ball, work in 1 to 2 TBSP. more oil.  Roll pastry between two sheets of waxed paper into a rectangle, 12 x 7″.  Peel off top paper and invert pastry on meat mixture.  Peel off second piece of waxed paper; cut 3 or 4 slits near center of pastry.

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