Wednesday, March 30, 2011

next I suppose you'll want me to explain calzones

So as today was Doctor's Day, NOT ONLY did we have free bacon for breakfast in the doctor's dining room (they love us to the extent that they want to keep us in business, I guess?) we also had a special lunch, which consisted, somewhat eclectically, of some kind of heat-lamp-incubated meat log, tilapia with mango (I know), and a falafel bar. So obviously--the falafel, right?

(Full-disclosure, I also did chip off a piece of the meat log. Come on, I'm not made of stone. MEAT. LOG.)

So I'm assembling my falafel when one of the radiologists I'm friendly with came up and pointed at the chick pea patties sitting in one of the steamer trays. "What's that?"





"Oh, I think that's for the falafal." And then, as some further explanation seemed to be required, I added, "For Doctor's Day."

"What's a falafel?" He replied innocently. And then he said something else, but I couldn't hear him because my head exploded.

"WHAT'S A FALAFEL?!" I repeated, after I had collected all my head pieces and reassembled in roughly the correct configuration with bioglue and an Kling wrap. "It's THAT. THAT is falafel. Fried chick pea patties. Cucumber tomato salad. Tahini. Pita bread. Please tell me you know what a falafel is." And then, like a very bad Pictionary player whose teammate clearly has no idea what is being represented, I just emphatically pointed to the food again. And maybe I screamed the word "FALAFEL!" a couple more times, just in case he hadn't heard me properly.

"I think...I'll get some of this fish," the radiologist finally said, which, I'm sorry to say, was not the correct response.

After this, I informally polled a handful of people in the anesthesia department, all natives of the South. None of them had ever even heard the word falafel before. So tell me, am I crazy? I know I grew up in New York and what's commonplace in New York is not commonplace in most other places, but I had always figured that falafel was just a ubiquitous American-adopted ethnic food, like pizza, or tacos. You know, when you walk down a street in New York, it goes like this: coffee cart, hot dog/pretzel cart, falafel cart, and that vendor that sells three dollar cell phone cases from Hong Kong. I didn't know people didn't eat falafels in the South! Which makes it all the more mystifying that they chose to serve it to us for Doctor's Day. Maybe it was the vegetarian option, and they figured no one would touch it anyway?

Now I also know not to go out clubbing really late and end up with a case of the 3:00am munchies, because where there is no falafel, there is certainly no schawarma, and if there's no schawarma at 3:00am when you're drunk, there is no tomorrow.

Uh...Happy Doctor's Day!

(For the record: I don't think we as doctors need a "Day," but I appreciate the sentiment--I will continue trying to earn it.)

77 comments:

  1. Nickie10:17 PM

    I think you mean like an EXPERT Pictionary player... http://www.thedoghousediaries.com/?p=2659

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  2. Path Res TN10:19 PM

    Only us weird southerners eat falafel. And what in the h-e-double hockey sticks is schawarma?

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  3. Neuro FL10:22 PM

    Nope, never heard of it until last year where a friend had to explain it to me for 10mins.

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  4. Haha, falafel for doctor's day makes total sense!

    I'm a Southerner who loves falafel...but quite possibly the only reason I've even heard of it is because I'm Jewish (and therefore had the wonders of "Israel food" engrained in my head at summer camp as a kid). Considering the number of Jews in ATL, the amount of people who've heard of falafel is probably impressive compared to the entire state of Louisiana. Wrap your brain around this - I brought hummus to a function here recently and kept getting asked, "What is this called? PUMMUS?"

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  5. SCHAWARMA! There is a meat on a stick that spins in front of a hot thinger! And you slice off the meat with a long sawing knife! And you put it on pita with the other stuff! White sauce! Hot sauce! And then there is eating!

    (To be fair, I think that "gyro" maybe be a more common designation for schawarma, though I am not absolutely certain they are the same thing.)

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  6. Anonymous10:28 PM

    What in the world? I grew up in Kentucky, did my residency in Alabama, and have lived in Nashville for 9 years. I grew up eating falafels and can tell you all the best places to eat them in Birmingham and Nashville. They don't know what they're missing in Atlanta! And Happy Doctors Day! :)

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  7. We got fruit and danishes for Doctor's Day which I appreciated, but I wish we had had bacon!

    I grew up in an area with a lot of Middle Eastern immigrants so I was very familiar with falafel and shawarma. I don't live there anymore and now I'm craving that too!

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  8. Had similar moments in Iowa when asked to explain falafel, hummus, pad thai, and I even accompanied a few friends to their first sushi experience. They don't know what they're missing!

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  9. Anonymous10:54 PM

    I'm from Montana and we even had falafel there...

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  10. Northwest born and bred...definitely we had falafel, though I think I actually ate way more of it while living in Spain...

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  11. Anonymous11:16 PM

    We have falafel in Florida too, but I suppose it isnt really the "deep south" in the same way as georgia???

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  12. I'm from california, and I've never heard of falafel before either. I'm still not sure what it is.

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  13. Anonymous11:27 PM

    I'm from California. I've heard the term, but never eaten it.

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  14. Anonymous11:32 PM

    I grew up in Atlanta and I know there is a restaurant near Emory University called Falafel King. Although the only Falafel I've ever actually eaten was prepared for me by a Russian/German friend.

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  15. I'm a midwesterner and just hear of falafel about a year ago when Parents magazine informed me that they are yummy and how to make them at home.

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  16. Anonymous11:44 PM

    I'm from California and I had heard of a falafel from Falafel King near Emory. Only a year ago did I heard about schawarma. But I had heard of gyros before. :)

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  17. I'm from Texas, but grew up overseas...if someone asked me what falafel was I don't think I could answer...

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  18. Anonymous12:14 AM

    I met a 55 year old man last year from somewhere in Tennessee. He had never eaten Thai food before.
    Amazing.

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  19. You can get amazing schwarma in Atlanta! Try Pita Palace by Emory at 1658 Lavista Road Northeast. Cross street is Briarcliff (across from Whole Foods and Mellow Mushroom). Little Israeli kosher place so not open Friday nights :)

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  20. Canadian Jenn12:31 AM

    I grew up in a small town in Ontario, Canada and had never heard of falafel. But then I moved to Ottawa many years ago, while in my late teens. Ottawa has a nice-sized Lebanese population so there are really amazing falafel places EVERYWHERE and now I really could not live without it! Totally addicted to it. Mmmm...I could use some now.

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  21. Anonymous1:17 AM

    I'm in New Zealand, and everybody (I mean everybody) knows what falafel is. You can buy tubs at the supermarket to cook at home. Falafel kebabs are also pretty good drunk food, in a shawarma joint with good fries. Om nom nom 4am.

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  22. There is a Doctors Day?

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  23. Oddly enough I was craving falafel all weekend....mmmmmmm falafel.

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  24. I have no idea what falafel is, still don't. I think I'll go google it now.

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  25. Anonymous3:25 AM

    Is Shawarma and Kebab the same?

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  26. no, anon 3:25 - gyros, kebabs, shwarmas, (and dont forget Donairs!), and falafels are vastly different.

    but all delicious!!!!!

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  27. Gyros/schwarama and falafel? NEver heard of? THEY HAVEN'T LIVED. Love me some spit roast and chickpeas.

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  28. I grew up in North Florida and I had only seen falafel mentioned on episodes of seinfeld never actually seeing one in person. My city was also lacking an Indian and thai restaurant so forget about falafel..

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  29. oh and the appropriate post-club grub for a true southerner is Krystal burgers or on a whim a trip to Denny's

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  30. Jennifer6:02 AM

    I live in Atlanta and know what falafel is, though to be fair I'm not a not a native southerner. However, I'm pretty sure I discovered falafel while living in Austin. And I know gyros, but not schawarma.

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  31. actually, for accuracy's sake, "falafel" refers to the chickpea patties... not the whole wrap. but ok, carry on. :)

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  32. Anonymous7:43 AM

    Scwhaaaarmaaa....salivating...now....havent had one in years. (we live so far from fast food that doesnt consist of 'fries with that'..) Yuuum. Speaking of foreign fries..Have you tried Dutch mayonaise on frenchfries (fritesaus) btw?? Really good!!

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  33. Anonymous8:05 AM

    It took me several minutes to explain, to my non-New Yorker wife, what a hot dog vendor is and why they perform an essential public service--even in the suburbs. 'You mean to tell me that you are driving down the road and there will be a guy on the side of the road selling hot dogs? And you just pull over and get one? Even in the winter?"

    Yup.

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  34. Anonymous8:14 AM

    I'm from southern California and have also never heard of falafel, schwarama and Donairs.

    Ah well, at least I know what lox is?

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  35. Sonia8:18 AM

    I lived in Athens, GA for 2 yrs, and there were a couple of restaurants that served falafel and other similar fare. Of course, Athens is .... Athens, and not typical of the rest of GA. Now that I live on Long Island, I still do a double take when I see those RV hot dog places on the onramps to the LIE.

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  36. Heidi8:20 AM

    Dude, I'm from freaking Idaho and grew up eating falafel. But then again my mom was all about making sure my brother & I experienced new and interesting foods. I now live in Chicago and one of my neighbors (a mid-thirties male) told me he's never had Indian food before! Gah! Get out and eat people!

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  37. Heidi8:23 AM

    Or.... get out and eat, people! But don't eat people.

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  38. I'm from Detroit, I know falafel...and gyro...hummus....pretty much anything Middle Eastern....but we have a large Arabic population (largest outside of the Middle East I believe)
    Shwarama and Gyro's are not the same! Different dishes, different regions (Shwarama is I think Lebanese and Gyro is Greek)....but I'm sure some places pass it off the same here in the States.

    While many people are starting to think of Detroit as a 3rd world country...we do have some authentic diverse food stuffs:-)

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  39. Anonymous8:58 AM

    What! No grits?

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  40. Spare the calzones! I really want to take the train up to the city now. Me and schawarmas have a special thing, and it's been too long.

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  41. You can get falafel in KY now, but no, it's not something everyone knows about. The only reason I know what some of these foods are is because my mother is Greek and restaurants that serve Greek food often offer this other stuff.

    Love schwarma. Not certain I've ever had a Donair.

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  42. I grew up in Kentucky, lived in Nashville for 15 years and now live way down near the Alabama border. I've heard of falafel, but have never had it - apparently Anonymous #6 and I don't eat at the same places!

    We could introduce you to a few things as well...Tennessee Whiskey, cornbread, wilted lettuce, fried okra, sweet tea, moonshine ;-)

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  43. Oh, I'm on board with the sweet tea and okra already! : )

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  44. I think everyone has gaps in their food knowledge, depending on where they grew up and how often their families ate out. Here in Chicago, falafel is mainstream enough that it is offered at Subway.

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  45. Mediterranean food is easily found in Portland. In fact we just had a big spread for my Lutheran grandmother's funeral. It sounds like your buffet had a gyro assembly station, and you could fill your gyro (pita sandwich) with falafels (the chickpea patties) or gyro meat (the meat log). You can buy falafel mix at most grocery stores here, and premade frozen falafel patties at Costco. YUM.

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  46. *Sara panics about impending move to US*

    I really am having a hard time getting over this one.

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  47. I live in the upper midwest and I have to explain falafel to at least one person every time I mention it or bring it for lunch. I get crazy looks when I say my favorite ethnic food is Thai food... as if they never knew there was such a thing.

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  48. Anonymous2:57 PM

    There's definitely falafel in Toronto!

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  49. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, I don't think you understand just how much I resonated with this post. I grew up in the midwest, live in Central PA and spent last summer in Switzerland, where I was introduced to the magic of falafel and schwarama. Came back here to Big LandGrant University in the Middle of Nowhere PA and NO ONE had heard of it. Depressing.

    You're right about NYC, Dr. Au; falafel carts are are ubiquitous as Starbucks!

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  50. Anonymous4:13 PM

    I was born and raised in the South and had never heard of a schwarma or a falafel until I went to an offshore medical school. Now I live on those things!

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  51. Anonymous4:39 PM

    Don't forget Dunk and Dine after the clubs in Atlanta. Oh wait, that was 20 years ago.

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  52. Born amd raised in New Orleans, Louisiana! Not only do I know what a falafel is but so does just about everyone I know. I also love schawarma and hummus but I wouldn't look down on Southerners who aren't familiar with these foods. Grits, jambalya, beignets and cochon de lait are all things Yankees probably have no idea about either. Let's not mock the south, please!

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  53. I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia and we have several Middle eastern restaurants. I made the mistake of reading this while deciding what to eat tonight and am now trying to decide where to get my falafel tonight.
    Of course, Halifax is more of a donair city. Most pizza places have donair pizza (exactly what you think it is) and (in a crossover I never imagined) places now sell donair eggrolls. Cardiology referral anyone???

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  54. Anonymous6:09 PM

    Also live in Nashville and a falafel lover. Where are those great falafel places in Nashville, Anonymous?

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  55. Tanya6:12 PM

    There is a great fast-food type restaurant that specializes in falafel (I think that's all they sell). The best part is that they have a toppings bar with like 20 different toppings so you can make your pita however you like. I first discovered them in Barcelona, but noticed that they have locations in the US too. Check it out -

    http://www.maozusa.com/restaurants

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  56. Anonymous6:51 PM

    Once you have lived in the South for five years you will become just as out of touch as everyone else, and your friends from NYC will call you a hick and laugh at you! (as they have done to me)...

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  57. Murray7:21 PM

    Kris... I too am a Haligonian (now living in Montreal)...

    Long live the Donair... does it exist anywhere else?

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  58. Sabrina8:04 PM

    Michelle: if you (or your commenters...) know where to get good falafel and shawarma in Atlanta, please post!

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  59. I ate my first falafel in Thailand at 21 and that's the first time I had ever heard of it/them. (Is falafel plural?) I'm from the midwest by the way.

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  60. Not to disagree with the other midwesterners above, but I grew up in Kansas and have spent my entire college, medical school and residency education in the upper mid-west, and I LOVE falafel, as do most of my friends. Granted my current city is a college town, and thus more cosmopolitan than most, but we have four restaurants in town that serve falafel. Also, most of the residents I know can tell you which of those four restaurants they prefer and why. A lot of them also make their own hummus. Maybe I know a unique crowd....?

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  61. I'm from Florida, have lived in the ATL for the past several years, and I am familiar w/ falafel.

    As for Doctor' Day - no love at work for me. Not even a mention! (not that it's necessary, but still!)

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  62. Anonymous7:44 AM

    I grew up in the south and never heard of it. Now a New Yorker -- looooooove it. :-)

    And I just heard of this Doctor's Day yesterday. Except in NYC hospitals no one gives you falafel! Grr!!

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  63. Katiedid9:52 AM

    Chiming in just because the whole comment thread has bemused me: I grew up just outside Birmingham, AL, and I definitely had falafel at some sort of street fair there (also, at least one food court in the area -- Brookwood? Galleria? Homewood?) sold it.

    Of course, my parents aren't from the US and we had several good Greek friends, so it's possible they sought it out and I would have never found it on my own. These were the same parents that would drive 45 minutes to the (then) only Indian restaurant in town...

    But I'd think falafel is pretty well known to at least sorority girls, because it's considered a healthy option. Hummus was definitely at a lot of grown-up parties I attended.

    Now I live in NYC and stalk the Taim people's green falafel. Did you know they opened up a restaurant?

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  64. Anonymous11:52 AM

    I can't believe there are people who posted their location as California (including southern CA?!?) and stated that they'd never heard of falafel. Have they never even been to Trader Joe's?

    3 a.m. falafel and schawerma is not just a NYC thing - it's also a San Francisco thing.

    Half of the reason why I live in Los Angeles is because of the readily available awesome food from all over the world, including falafel. They even serve falafel pitas at the Renaissance Faire in Southern California.

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  65. UK person here - falafel is something i'd heard of without knowing what it actually was. I suspect if I lived in London or one of the bigger cities, there'd be enough ethnic food places that I'd be more familiar with it. Schawarma sounds like what we call doner kebab and that's pretty ubiquitous here :)

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  66. I know that I'm from Australia, but even we have falafel here. I thought I didn't know what a shawarma was, but then we call them "doner kebabs" here and they are in every single mall food court in the country, just about.

    3am falafel is an international experience. Perhaps it is part of what it means to be human. ;)

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  67. Anonymous12:25 AM

    I hear you. After being exiled to the South for a year for work, the FIRST thing I did when I moved back to New York City was have a falafel from the falafel cart.

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  68. Anonymous1:01 AM

    Grew up in Ohio and am almost 60 years old and NEVER heard of Falafel in my life until reading this blog. I somehow don't feel like I've missed much.

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  69. Anonymous6:05 PM

    Falafel all the time in Cleveland... hmm can't understand what's going on in Atlanta. It is the top labor and delivery call treat given that there is a good place with falafel and hummus near by in the otherwise ghetto region of our county hospital.

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  70. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Wow, I couldn't live without falafel. Mmmm, now I'm hungry for falafel. Maybe we should map the falafel free zones in the US, so we can avoid them.

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  71. Anonymous6:12 PM

    PS. All our doctors got red carnations. I asked our med school dean if it was time for the prom already. He was not amused. He only likes it when he's made the joke. I bet he repeated it later that day.

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  72. I regularly attend meetings at the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services, and our favorite happy dance days are the days we get falafel for lunch.

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  73. Anonymous11:22 AM

    It's not that you CAN'T get falafel in Atlanta or other areas of the South, it's just that my (non-scientific) data has revealed that there is only a small segment of the population that tries to attempt foods outside of what they are used to (American, Italian food).

    I work at a place with very educated physicians in Atlanta (it is known nationwide and internationally) in a DIvision where people travel internationally with great regularity. I have found that those raised in the SOuth consistently pick American food when we have special lunches AND if we go out somewhere remotely international (including for Chinese), they will get food that is as commonplace and mundane as possible- foods you can get at some state fairs (e.g., fried rice, teryaki chicken, etc.). Also, I just came back from an international trip to Asia with one doctor who spent the whole time ordering burgers and pizza from room service.

    Again, this is a non-scientific sample, but one I see over and over and over again here...

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