The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan [easy meals to make]

  • Full Title : The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
  • Autor: Michael Pollan
  • Print Length: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Publication Date: August 28, 2007
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038580
  • Download File Format: epub


One of the New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year

Winner of the James Beard Award

Author of How to Change Your Mind and the #1 New York Times Bestsellers In Defense of Food and Food Rules

What should we have for dinner? Ten years ago, Michael Pollan confronted us with this seemingly simple question and, with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his brilliant and eye-opening exploration of our food choices, demonstrated that how we answer it today may determine not only our health but our survival as a species. In the years since, Pollan’s revolutionary examination has changed the way Americans think about food. Bringing wide attention to the little-known but vitally important dimensions of food and agriculture in America, Pollan launched a national conversation about what we eat and the profound consequences that even the simplest everyday food choices have on both ourselves and the natural world. Ten years later, The Omnivore’s Dilemma continues to transform the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.



Gold Medal in Nonfiction for the California Book Award • Winner of the 2007 Bay Area Book Award for Nonfiction • Winner of the 2007 James Beard Book Award/Writing on Food Category • Finalist for the 2007 Orion Book Award • Finalist for the 2007 NBCC Award

“Thoughtful, engrossing … You’re not likely to get a better explanation of exactly where your food comes from.”–The New York Times Book Review

“An eater’s manifesto … [Pollan’s] cause is just, his thinking is clear, and his writing is compelling. Be careful of your dinner!”–The Washington Post

“Outstanding… a wide-ranging invitation to think through the moral ramifications of our eating habits.”–The New Yorker

“If you ever thought ‘what’s for dinner’ was a simple question, you’ll change your mind after reading Pollan’s searing indictment of today’s food industry-and his glimpse of some inspiring alternatives…. I just loved this book so much I didn’t want it to end.”–The Seattle Times

“Michael Pollan has perfected a tone—one of gleeful irony and barely suppressed outrage—and a way of inserting himself into a narrative so that a subject comes alive through what he’s feeling and thinking. He is a master at drawing back to reveal the greater issues.”—Los Angeles Times

“Michael Pollan convincingly demonstrates that the oddest meal can be found right around the corner at your local McDonald’s…. He brilliantly anatomizes the corn-based diet that has emerged
in the postwar era.”—The New York Times

“[Pollan] wants us at least to know what it is we are eating, where it came from and how it got to our table. He also wants us to be aware of the choices we make and to take responsibility for them. It’s an admirable goal, well met in The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”—The Wall Street Journal

“A gripping delight…This is a brilliant, revolutionary book with huge implications for our future and a must-read for everyone. And I do mean everyone.”—The Austin Chronicle

“As lyrical as What to Eat is hard-hitting, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals…may be the best single book I read this year. This magisterial work, whose subject is nothing less than our own omnivorous (i.e., eating everything) humanity, is organized around two plants and one ecosystem. Pollan has a love-hate relationship with ‘Corn,’ the wildly successful plant that has found its way into meat (as feed), corn syrup and virtually every other type of processed food. American agribusiness’ monoculture of corn has shoved aside the old pastoral ideal of ‘Grass,’ and the self-sustaining, diversified farm based on the grass-eating livestock. In ‘The Forest,’ Pollan ponders the earliest forms of obtaining food: hunting and gathering. If you eat, you should read this book.”—Newsday

“Smart, insightful, funny and often profound.”—USA Today

The Omnivore’s Dilemma is an ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable, if sometimes unsettling, attempt to peer over these walls, to bring us closer to a true understanding of what we eat—and, by extension, what we should eat…. It is interested not only in how the consumed affects the consumer, but in how we consumers affect what we consume as well…. Entertaining and memorable. Readers of this intelligent and admirable book will almost certainly find their capacity to delight in food augmented rather than diminished.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“On the long trip from the soil to our mouths, a trip of 1,500 miles on average, the food we eat often passes through places most of us will never see. Michael Pollan has spent much of the last five years visiting these places on our behalf.”—

“The author of Second Nature and The Botany of Desire, Pollan is willing to go to some lengths to reconnect with what he eats, even if that means putting in a hard week on an organic farm and slitting the throats of chickens. He’s not Paris Hilton on The Simple Life.”—Time

“A pleasure to read.”—The Baltimore Sun

“A fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You’ll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again…. Pollan isn’t preachy; he’s too thoughtful a writer and too dogged a researcher to let ideology take over. He’s also funny and adventurous.”—Publishers Weekly

“[Pollan] does everything from buying his own cow to helping with the open-air slaughter of pasture-raised chickens to hunting morels in Northern California. This is not a man who’s afraid of getting his hands dirty in the quest for better understanding. Along with wonderfully descriptive writing and truly engaging stories and characters, there is a full helping of serious information on the way modern food is produced.”—BookPage

The Omnivore’s Dilemma is about something that affects everyone.”—The Sacramento Bee

“Lively and thought-provoking.”—East Bay Express

“Michael Pollan makes tracking your dinner back through the food chain that produced it a rare adventure.”—O, The Oprah Magazine

“A master wordsmith…Pollan brings to the table lucid and rich prose, an enthusiasm for his topic, interesting anecdotes, a journalist’s passion for research, an ability to poke fun at himself, and an appreciation for historical context…. This is journalism at its best.”—Christianity Today

“First-rate…[A] passionate journey of the heart…Pollan is…an uncommonly graceful explainer of natural science; this is the book he was born to write.”—Newsweek

“[Pollan’s] stirring new book…is a feast, illuminating the ethical, social and environmental impacts of how and what we choose to eat.”—The Courier-Journal

“From fast food to ‘big’ organic to locally sourced to foraging for dinner with rifle in hand, Pollan captures the perils and the promise of how we eat today.”—The Arizona Daily Star

“A multivalent, highly introspective examination of the human diet, from capitalism to consumption.”—The Hudson Review

“What should you eat? Michael Pollan addresses that fundamental question with great wit and intelligence, looking at the social, ethical, and environmental impact of four different meals. Eating well, he finds, can be a pleasurable way to change the world.”—Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness

“Widely and rightly praised…The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals [is] a book that—I kid you not—may change your life.”—Austin American-Statesman

“With the skill of a professional detective, Michael Pollan explores the worlds of industrial farming, organic and sustainable agriculture, and even hunting and gathering to determine the links of food chains: how food gets from its sources in nature to our plates. The findings he reports in this this book are often unexpected, disturbing, even horrifying, but they are facts every eater should know. This is an engaging book, full of information that is most relevant to conscious living.”—Dr. Andrew Weil, author of Spontaneous Healing and Healthy Aging

“Michael Pollan is a voice of reason, a journalist/philosopher who forages in the overgrowth of our schizophrenic food culture. He’s the kind of teacher we probably all wish we had: one who triggers the little explosions of insight that change the way we eat and the way we live.”—Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse restaurant

“Michael Pollan is such a thoroughly delightful writer—his luscious sentences deliver so much pleasure and humor and surprise as they carry one from dinner table to cornfield to feedlot to forest floor, and then back again—that the happy reader could almost miss the profound truth half hidden at the heart of this beautiful book: that the reality of our politics is to be found not in what Americans do in the voting booth every four years but in what we do in the supermarket every day. Embodied in this irresistible, picaresque journey through America’s food world is a profound treatise on the hidden politics of our everyday life.”—Mark Danner, author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror

“Every time you go into a grocery store you are voting with your dollars, and what goes into your cart has real repercussions on the future of the earth. But although we have choices, few of us are aware of exactly what they are. Michael Pollan’s beautifully written book could change that. He tears down the walls that separate us from what we eat, and forces us to be more responsible eaters. Reading this book is a wonderful, life-changing experience.”—Ruth Reichl, editor in chief of Gourmet magazine and author of Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

About the Author

Michael Pollan, recently featured on Netflix in the four-part series Cooked, is the author of seven previous books, including Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and The Botany of Desire, all New York Times bestsellers. A longtime contributor to The New York Times, he is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at Berkeley. In 2010, Time magazine named him one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.



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changed business cards.

A few months later, in spring of 2003, I was heading through Atlanta and thought that maybe I should give these folks a call. I rang up one of the guys I’d met, we chatted, and then he offered to give me an EGG to try out. Of course I said yes, and a few days later, I swung by, picked it up, and soon started using it to cook my competition chicken. And I did well! I reported back, and the Big Green Egg folks agreed to mention me to their distributors to see if they had any interest in using me for promotional events. The gas grill company had faded away, and this was my new opportunity.

The Baseball Bat Trophy

One day I got a call from the Big Green Egg folks in Indiana asking if I could attend a barbecue contest in Kentucky with them and help promote the EGG there. I upped the game by asking if they could bring a few extra EGGs that I could use to cook the whole contest on Big Green Eggs. This had never been done before. Jeff Raymond was the rep for that area and still is. He rustled up the EGGs for me to use, and the local dealer brought another eight or ten new ones to sell. I cooked the contest against all the big hitters of the day who were quite puzzled as to why I’d left my big metal smoker at home to cook on these quirky green things—until I beat them all and won the first-ever Pro Barbecue Grand Championship cooked on only Big Green Eggs. The trophy was an engraved Louisville Slugger bat that is in my office right now.

That was the day that I realized there really was something special about these EGGs. Over at the dealer’s booth, only one of the EGGs had been sold before the awards ceremony, and it wasn’t looking like a great day. But once I was handed the grand champion baseball bat trophy, the line formed, and both the new EGGs and the ones I’d been cooking on were all sold. We made a lot of believers that day.

They Said Yes!

That win in Kentucky qualified me for the big postseason World Barbecue Championship in Tennessee, so I had another idea. If Big Green Egg would put me on a monthly allowance to be the EGG Chef, I would use all EGGs again at the World Championship and beyond. They said yes, and the relationship was born. When this book hits the stores, that relationship with Big Green Egg will be thirteen years old, and we all still like each other. I’m proud of the growth that I have been part of both for the EGG and for me personally. It’s been a great partnership and an amazing ride, with a lot of fun and a lot of good people.

Lou West was my early Big Green Egg contact, and we traveled a lot of roads together teaching dealers how to cook on and sell the Big Green Egg. I have cooked a lot of food in the Big Green Egg booth at the big grill-industry trade shows, too—different things, fun things that nobody else was cooking on the grill. This was working, and I believe we changed the industry by doing that. It wasn’t long before every grill manufacturer was bringing a ringer chef along to cook. But I had one big advantage: I was cooking on the Big Green Egg, and those other chefs weren’t.

A Guy and a Girl Walk into a Bar

As the company grew, my role evolved into that of a traditional spokesman. At the same time, the world of barbecue was becoming a big deal across the board. My cookbook career was blossoming too, and as I traveled to promote my books, I brought the Big Green Egg along. Because I was a senior member of the competition barbecue community, I was asked to do all of the television shows that were recognizing us as real culinarians, and I always included the EGG.

One day while supporting an event in Chicago, I found myself in a bar with Jodi Burson, marketing director at Big Green Egg. We were discussing how things were changing and decided that we needed to step up our marketing game. We had this phenomenal product, and it was our job to share it with the world, but neither of us wanted to do it the old-fashioned way. There was the EGGhead culture that had happened organically, and we needed to embrace it and celebrate it. The groundwork had been laid long ago by Ed Fisher when he founded the company, and it was now our job to carry the torch. Of course, I fit in well with the nontraditional plan. My background wasn’t as a salesman or a chef, and I didn’t have a southern barbecue family history. I was a truck driver from Chicago with a silly beard and a shirt with flames on it.

Since that day, we have done a lot of unique and fun marketing things while always remembering who we are. We are EGGheads first. We get the joke. We wear green clothes. I bake green cakes. It may seem kooky, but it works. We’re selling EGGs and having fun doing it.

The Next Level

The grill and smoker industry continues to grow and Big Green Egg has become a force. It really does cook better than the rest, and that’s the main reason for all of the success. The company has moved into a nice building and added employees, but the personality remains the same. I’m proud to have played a part in the success, and I hope to continue on the journey for a long time. Spreading the gospel of the EGG is a fun and rewarding life. It has taken me to all corners of the United States, and nowadays it takes me all over the world. But the best part is that even after thirteen years, I still look forward to lighting the EGG every single time. Whether I’m at home or firing up the EGG for a couple of hundred EGGheads, I can’t wait to get cooking!

Chapter 2

The EGG Carton

In this chapter, I will discuss the ingredients and tools that I like to use when I’m cooking on the Big Green Egg. Although at its core the EGG is an uncomplicated charcoal grill, it’s also much more. The simple and ancient design has stood up for literally centuries to cook direct, indirect, on the grid, or on the ceramic. The most important EGGcessory is the convEGGtor. This simple tool converts the EGG from a direct grill to an indirect oven/barbecue pit. It’s also critical in cooking pizza, as you’ll learn a little later in this chapter. You’ll need an ash tool to remove the ash and stir the charcoal before reloading. Beyond that I’m not really a gadget guy. You won’t see me using the fad-of-the-month tools or even many of the old reliables. Thermometers are important, and I like to use a cast iron plancha (griddle) or Dutch oven occasionally, but most of my food is cooked in a single layer directly on the cooking grid.

The EGG comes in multiple sizes. At the time of this writing, seven models, ranging from the Mini to the XXLarge, are available. But the Large EGG, with its 18¼-inch grid, is the original, and it’s my favorite. It’s also the most popular, so for the recipes in this book, I have used the Large EGG exclusively. It would be confusing to try to include the nuances of making each recipe in each different-size EGG. All of the other sizes work equally well, and you shouldn’t have any problem using the recipes with a little common EGG sense.

Today’s EGG is similar in design to the originals that Mr. Fisher imported many years ago. There is a base, a top, a hinge/handle, a fire box, a fire ring, a charcoal grate, and a cooking grid. That’s pretty much all there is to an EGG. Add a bottom sliding vent door and a top vent cap and it’s ready to go. The variety of things that you can do with this simple design is truly amazing. So let’s get started.

The first thing that you need to do is load the EGG with charcoal. Lump charcoal is all you should ever use. Briquettes are full of chemicals and will create too much ash and interfere with the great airflow that makes the EGG cook so well. The good news is that lump charcoal lights easily and makes the food taste great. If you’re starting with a clean, empty EGG, all you do is pour the charcoal straight from the bag, filling up to the top of the fire box. This is the standard fill for most cooking. If you’ve cooked on your EGG previously and have leftover charcoal, the first thing you need to do is to stir the old coals with your ash tool so the ash drops to the bottom. Then you can add new charcoal to bring the level to the top of the fire box. After that, I like to stir the old and the new to mix them together.

For most of my cooking, I have found that lump charcoal gives the food enough of a smoky flavor. If you like more smoke, you can add some wood chips or chunks to the charcoal before lighting. I don’t find a need to soak the chips or chunks. If I want just a light smoke, I use chips. First I load half of my charcoal, then I spread an even layer of wood chips on top, and then I add the rest of the charcoal on top of that. A couple of handfuls of wood chips will do it. If I want a stronger smoke for a longer cook like brisket or pork butt, I use chunks. Two or three chunks that total about the size of my fist are enough. I never use more wood than this, and I never add additional wood later in the cook.

If you load the EGG as I’ve described, you should never need to add charcoal during cooking. If you find yourself running out, you simply need to add more charcoal at start-up. If you like your food smokier, add more wood at the beginning but beware: Most folks don’t really like their food heavily smoked. If anyone tells you the food is too smoky, it probably is. Cooks gets desensitized to it after breathing it for the long cooking time, so they don’t taste it as strongly as others do. Start with less wood; you can always add more next time. Undersmoked food is still very good. Oversmoked food is not enjoyed by anyone.

What Kind of Wood?

These are the woods I like and use. You may find others locally, and if you prefer them, you should use them.

Apple: A light, sweet smoke flavor. Use alone or paired with hickory or oak when cooking chicken, turkey, fish, pork, or beef.

Cherry: A light, sweet smoke flavor. Use alone or paired with hickory or oak when cooking chicken, turkey, fish, pork, or beef.

Hickory: A strong smoke flavor but classic barbecue taste. Use sparingly with chicken or turkey. Use alone or paired with a milder wood like apple or cherry with pork or beef.

Oak: A medium-strong smoke flavor but classic barbecue taste. Use sparingly on chicken and turkey. Use alone or paired with a milder wood like apple or cherry with pork or beef.

Pecan: A middle-of-the-road taste and strength. Pecan seems to go well with everything when used in moderation and is my favorite.

Ash Management

Ash management and lighting the EGG go together because you never want to remove the ash when the EGG is hot. When you are done cooking, close the air vent in the lid and the air vent in the base to shut down the airflow fully. Leave the EGG alone, and the fire will go out, and the EGG will cool down in a couple of hours. The next time you want to cook on your EGG, just open both air vents completely. Remove the cooking grid and set it aside. Stir the cooled coals to allow the ash to drop to the bottom of the EGG. Insert the Big Green Egg ash tool into the bottom vent door, and scrape out the ash into a disposable pan or onto a piece of cardboard or aluminum foil. It’s simple when everything has cooled down but would be very dangerous with a hot EGG and a live fire.

When all of the ash is scraped out, you’re ready to light the fire. You don’t have to remove the ash from the EGG before every cook, but you should do it after every three or four. One caveat to this routine is that every now and then you should use up or remove all of the charcoal from your EGG for a full clean out. If you don’t, the reused charcoal will eventually become a lot of tiny pieces that will impede airflow. I’d suggest doing this about every fifteen times you use the EGG. Your mileage may vary depending on how you cook, but if your EGG isn’t getting hot, it’s probably because ash buildup is restricting proper airflow.

Lighting the EGG

Big Green Egg sells natural charcoal starters, small, square, flat pieces of paraffin and sawdust. You tuck one into the lump charcoal and light the corner. These work really well, and I recommend them. But I think they work best when broken in half. I find that three halves evenly spaced and tucked into the charcoal do a good job of lighting a large EGG. There are many ways to light an EGG, and if you have a different technique that’s working for you, go for it! Just don’t ever use liquid lighter fluid. It will make your EGG stinky for a long time. After I light the charcoal starters, I add the convEGGtor if I’m using it and then I replace the cooking grid. Next, I leave everything alone and open for 10 minutes. Then I close the lid of the EGG but leave the bottom and top vents wide open for another 5 minutes. Finally, I open the EGG and brush the grid with a wire grill brush. Once the grid is cleaned up, I close the vents halfway and start working toward my desired cooking temperature.

How Do I Get the Desired Cooking Temperature?

That’s the million-dollar question. The answer seems so simple to those of us who have been doing it for a long time, but it can seem a bit intimidating to the folks who are just getting started. Here are a few tips before I describe the procedure.

1. Try to sneak up on the desired cooking temperature gradually.

2. Remember that you’re also heating up the ceramic mass, so it will take a little time.

3. Don’t get crazy over 5 to 10 degrees either way.

4. Give the temperature a little time to settle rather than constantly making minor adjustments.

5. Adding air by opening up the vents raises the temperature and closing off the air cools the EGG down.

6. You’ll figure it out pretty quickly, but if all else fails, buy a Big Green Egg DigiQ.

Light the EGG as previously directed or using your preferred method. Read rule number 1. It’s much easier to bring the temperature up a little than to bring it down. The rise may seem slow on the way up because you are warming the ceramic mass of the EGG along with the air inside. Have patience and read rule number 2. Now read rule number 5 two times. If the EGG gets too hot, do not open the lid to let the heat out. That’s just not how it works. In fact, that’s the opposite of how it works. Adding air fuels the fire and heats things up. Keeping the lid closed and closing down the vents a bit calms the fire and cools the EGG down. But it takes time. Read rule number 4 again.

To cook at 350°F, the basic position is half open for the bottom vent and about 1 inch of a gap for of air through the top vent. That’s not the gospel. Every fire and every EGG are a little different, but that’s a starting point. Adjust from there, remembering that if you open both vents a little, the fire will get hotter, and if you close them a little, it will get cooler. I tend to think of the top vent as a good tool for small adjustments and the bottom vent as a tool for bigger adjustments. Now read rules number 1, 3, 4, and 5 again. And if all else fails, read rule number 6. The Big Green Egg DigiQ is a great tool and I use it often. In case you don’t know what it is, it’s an automatic temperature-control device that uses a probe, a little fan, and a mini computer to maintain the temperature precisely where you want it. I use it for overnight long cooking so I don’t have to check my temperature in the middle of the night, and I use it on busy days like Thanksgiving when I’m in the kitchen prepping other dishes and I don’t want to be concerned with the turkey. It’s a great tool, but for most of us and for most cooking, it’s not required.

So my suggestion is to get cooking. As long as you use good technique and a temperature gauge for deciding when the food is done, you’ll be eating well. The recipes will help you with that, and with a little practice, you’ll be a pro in no time.

Lid Open or Closed?

The Big Green Egg burns and cooks best with the lid closed. The bottom and top air vents work together to create an even, hot environment that helps keep food moist and juicy. Unless I specifically say to cook with the lid open, you should close the lid during all cooking. On rare occasions, I will cook with the lid open, but this is an extreme method. For example, if I want to sear a thin steak or chop without cooking it from the top down, this works well. However, you must never, ever walk away from your EGG when the lid is open. The EGG can get very hot very quickly when the lid is left open, and when you close it, the risk of a flashback is high.

What’s a Flashback?

The Big Green Egg is a great environment in which to build a hot fire. It also seals well to control the fire via limited oxygen flow. But when you quickly close off the oxygen to a hot fire and then quickly reintroduce it, you get what is called a flashback or backdraft. It’s easily managed by “burping” the EGG as you open it. Just open the lid a couple of inches and hold it there for a few seconds. This allows the incoming air to enter slowly and helps prevent a flashback from happening. After that, just open the lid slowly and go about your cooking. You should burp the EGG whenever you are cooking above 350°F; it will quickly become a habit, and you won’t even realize that you’re doing it.

Common EGG Cooking Setups

I use only a few simple setups to cook on the EGG. I know that some of you have elaborate rigs and like to cook a little differently, and I think that’s great. I like it simple, and I think the EGG works best that way. We are all right as long as we’re cooking on an EGG and using good technique to know when the food is done. Here are my recommendations.


This is the most common setup and is used for all direct grilling. Fill the fire box to the top with lump charcoal. Light it and replace the cooking grid. Follow my instructions for reaching your desired temperature (see here) or do it your way. It may seem like a lot of charcoal, but you’ll be able to control the temperature by how much air you let in. When you’re done cooking, close the air vent in the lid and the air vent in the base, and the EGG will go out, saving the leftover charcoal for next time.

Indirect with Drip Pan

Adding the convEGGtor to the EGG for indirect cooking makes it work like a convection oven, with a barrier between the direct heat and the food. Indirect with a drip pan is the primary setup for smoking and roasting. The drip pan will catch any dripping fat and prevent it from burning on the convEGGtor and also from falling onto the charcoal. Some cooks like to add liquid to the drip pan, but I don’t think it adds anything but a mess to clean up. For this setup, fill the fire box to the top with lump charcoal, adding smoking wood if you are using it. Light the charcoal the same as always, putting in the convEGGtor as soon as the fire is lit. I usually cover the convEGGtor with aluminum foil to keep it clean, but most EGGheads don’t bother with this.

Indirect without Drip Pan

This is exactly the same setup as indirect with a drip pan but is used for things that are cooked in a pan or just won’t drip, like cakes, cookies, or pizzas. No harm is done if you want to add a drip pan. It just isn’t necessary.

Good Technique to Know When the Food Is Done

I’ve mentioned the importance of taking the food out of the EGG at the perfect time more than once, so I need to explain. Taking the food off at the perfect time is the most important thing you can do in any cooking. If the EGG temperature is a little hot or a little cool, the food will still be fine. It will just take a little more or a little less time to cook. Because of this, you cannot decide when food is done by timing alone. Every fire is a little different. Every piece of m


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