553: Jack Cheese
Matthew Amster-Burton 0:00
Hi I'm Matthew and I'm Molly and this is spilled milk the show where we cook something delicious eat it all and you can't have any today
we are talking about Jack cheese
Matthew Amster-Burton 0:13
or possibly Monterey Jack cheese we'll get into that
I was gonna say yeah, this episode was suggested by hosts Molly and Matthew during the American cheese episode Yeah, I
Matthew Amster-Burton 0:23
don't remember that that feels like a long time ago now but I'm so glad that
we that you know we we tape all of our episodes so that so that we can be reminded at some point further down the line of what we said
Matthew Amster-Burton 0:37
no, it was it was a real innovation in the show's history like after when after like, you know, we started the show in 2003 and then starting in 2010 we started taping the episodes before it before that they were performed just for our respective pets.
Unknown Speaker 0:54
Yeah, okay. All right. So
Matthew Amster-Burton 0:56
that was great of us to suggest this You're right. Matthew, and let's go down now Jack memory lane.
All right, you go ahead. Okay,
Matthew Amster-Burton 1:06
so I don't really have any Jack memory lane. i It's always just been kind of the mild white cheese that melts and Crisps very well. My only memory lane is that I think this was introduced to us by Cylons W sister in law the show Wendy, who refers to storebrand Monterey Jack as cheap Jack, which I only learned fairly recently is actually like a thing that people say that has nothing to do with cheese. That just means something like is like cheap and shoddy. But cheap chat. Yeah, like I don't know who says this or how common it is. I think not very okay. But but it is it was like a word that I found in a dictionary. Oh, but yeah, but like we like I will put it on the shopping list like get some cheap Jack meeting like you know, Safeway bread. Jack cheese.
Okay. So I have even less memory lane than you do. Okay. However, what memory lane I do have is of a particular jack cheese called Vela dry Jack.
Matthew Amster-Burton 2:01
I looked for this to see if we could get some to taste on the episode and I couldn't find any of any of the cheese counters near me.
I don't think I have ever tasted it. But when I worked at a Whole Foods Market, I remember we sold Vela dry Jack I can still picture what it looked like. And isn't it made in California? Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So maybe maybe it's your county there. But yeah, that is my memory of it is of a non cheap jack of an expensive Jack. Yeah,
Matthew Amster-Burton 2:28
I have had the the Vela try Jack and it is very tasty. Is it? Would you use it for the same purpose? Oh, it's more of a hard like it's not quite as hard as like a parmesan, but it's a it's a hard cheese that you would use for for like snacking or grading.
Okay. Well, I think you're going to tell us more about that cheese, in fact, so we'll get there.
Matthew Amster-Burton 2:49
Yeah. Okay. So you want to jump into the history of jack cheese, which was 100 times more interesting than I expected. Yeah. Okay, so this is not going to be exactly funny because there's a lot of like colonialism involved. Okay, all right. So but it was interesting. And so a lot of this comes from a from a good, albeit flawed, and I'll get into that article and food and wine called the tragic way Monterey Jack cheese got its name by Matt Blitz, okay. Okay. So first of all, is it jack or monterey jack? Either one is fine. There's no trademark on the term monterey jack, so anyone can use it. And it was first made in Monterey, California at the Monterey Bay mission by Franciscan friars who brought cattle over from Spain in the late 18th century. And they made this you know, mild, semi hard cheese that they would have just called queso blanc or queso blanco pie yeast, meaning white peasant cheese. Okay. All right. So fast forward a few years to the mid 19 century and the Mexican American War.
Okay, wait, hold on. So so this was before California was California.
Matthew Amster-Burton 3:54
This was this was when it was alta? California. Okay. Yeah. So the US took Alta California from from Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. And technically the US paid for California but paid a like peanutty price for it. Okay. You may wonder what that has to do with cheese. Well, we'll get there. Eventually. California was admitted to the Union as a state in 1850. You might remember, or at least your dad would because he invented Altoids in 18th century, okay. And Americans started moving to California and I would, when I say Americans, what I really mean is non Native Americans to try and get rich I think that has basically never stopped since then. However, there were already people living in California, and those were Mexican and Native American people. And under the rancho land grant system, Mexico had granted permanent ownership of large tracts of land to Mexican farmers, okay, as you might guess, was pre Mexican American War. This was pre Mexican American War. So then after after the war after the US claimed, you know, the the top half of California which is now the state of California, the US government made some noises like we're gonna respect the rancho system. And you know, that gave these Mexican farmers tracts of land that they would own in perpetuity. I have a bad feeling about so you should have a bad feeling about this. Here's where the the story gets complicated because in the in the Food and Wine article, the Mexican American farmers are the victims in this story, which is true, but the farm labor that they used was largely consistent, largely consistent of enslaved Native Americans. So Oh, wow, this is this is where like, I'm reading the story. I'm like, Oh, okay. This is this is why we needed Howard Zinn's people's history because the the actual people like who were getting who you know who this story revolved around, were the Native American slave laborers, who were getting screwed by everyone and whose story doesn't really appear in the story whose voice doesn't really appear in the story. Okay, but this is what we got. So yes, so the as you as you might expect, so American real estate investors, they came to California and they were totally cool guys who had tons of respect for the Mexican land grant system. Yeah. Basically, they went around stealing land from Mexican farmers left and right. And one of the most ruthless of these land barons was David Jack, who as far as I can tell, changed his name from David jack to David Jack's when he settled in California just because he liked the sound of it. Wow.
What would you change your name to if you were gonna move to California to
Matthew Amster-Burton 6:33
California and in 1993, and I changed my name to
well, you added burden
Matthew Amster-Burton 6:45
when you married your wife arriving in California,
you thought I'm gonna add Burton because it's the name of a outdoor escape cup. No snowboard.
Matthew Amster-Burton 6:54
Yeah, yeah, no, I thought I thought like if I added it that I would like get a get better at snowboarding. And I'd be like, attract a cool snowboarding check.
Unknown Speaker 7:02
Yeah, and that's that is exactly what happens. Yep. Yeah.
Matthew Amster-Burton 7:07
So David Jax moved to Monterey in 1857. From
from where from someplace from stuff California. Yeah.
Matthew Amster-Burton 7:13
Like he was in Scotland for a while. I mean, he was he was from Scotland. I think he was like somewhere else in the US and then moved to California. In 1859, three sleazy lawsuit which went all the way to the Supreme Court. He acquired nearly the entire city's land for $1,000. The entire the entire city of Monterey Yes. Which is about $7,000 today, so it was a joke joke money then but still joke money in today's dollars.
Okay. And so and this land was presumably previously owned by Mexican farmers, Mexican farmers. You know, it's also all the French Franciscan friars and other
Matthew Amster-Burton 7:55
people Yeah, okay, so, so from the Food and Wine article, quote, with his new acquisition of land, Jack worked to maximize his profits. He charged obscene taxes to renters and foreclosed on property sometimes posting notices in English to intentionally confuse Spanish speaking farm owners. On Jack's land. There were cattle ranches, vineyards, and 14 operating dairies. According to Jack everything they made he owned, including the popular white cheese, queso blanco Paice.
Wow, I wonder So, I'm gonna read things about this
Matthew Amster-Burton 8:23
story that don't make a lot of sense if that's what you're about
to say. Okay. Yes, yes. I mean, yes.
Matthew Amster-Burton 8:29
So he started marketing this cheese as Jack's cheese or Monterey Jack's cheese. And that's pretty much it. It became very popular and again, known as Jack cheese or Jack's cheese. I mean, it was it was Jack's like JC ks apostrophe, which everyone of course interpret is as Jack apostrophe s cheese. Okay. Okay. Wow. And that's pretty much it, except that of course, this story is disputed. Sure. So, according to Wikipedia, there are competing claims to the origin of the name Monterey Jack cheese, including one by Domingo Pirazzi of Carmel Valley, who argued that his use of a pressure Jack gave the Cheez Its name. There are also claims that Monterey Jack cheese originated from the victory ranch south south of Malpaso Creek in Carmel Highlands.
Well, it sure does seem that like this type of white cheese that melts well, could have originated in many different places.
Matthew Amster-Burton 9:20
Yeah, the part where I got stuck with this story is like Why did his name end up only being associated with the cheese was like the cheese the main thing going on in modern in the city of Monterey? I guess it's possible
before the aquarium that's true. For the Seafood Watch. Yep. So I mean, probably.
Matthew Amster-Burton 9:39
Okay. All right. You cleared it up. Yeah. Yeah. And the other important thing that I learned in the history the history of Monterey Jack is that in 1985, the Jack in the Box fast food chain changed its name to Monterey Jax, and this was not like a publicity I mean, it was a publicity stunt. But it wasn't like a you know, modern like internet days like we're changing our name to international We'll have some burgers type of stunt. Like they really intended this to be the permanent new name. Everyone hated it and they changed it back like within six months.
Wow. Okay, that's I had no idea maybe there. Okay, so how is this cheese made? And I mean just just to be fair, like how is so I'm thinking of of other white cheeses that one encounters in Mexican cuisine even right even like well Hakan cheese Yeah, no like how is this cheese made in a way that's different from other white cheeses that melt well,
Matthew Amster-Burton 10:31
right so not super different. So first of all, I found I found a USDA document that claimed that it's like the USDA standards for Monterey Jack cheese which claims that it's any cheese made by the Monterey process or resulting in a similar like you know, cheese with similar properties. It's like champagne right? So I'd so of course immediately I'm like, what is the Monterey process? As far as I can tell, there are no references to it anywhere else. I think they cut they cut in fine fine and replaced chatter because like Chatter is made according to the chattering process. There is nothing about the Monterey process anywhere other than the USDA website and they don't explain what it is. So moderate Jack is yes it is. It is made in a way that is similar to other mild white cheeses including like a mild cheddar in that it is curdled milk that is that is then pressed and not aged very long, but aged long enough to hold it shape. Okay, so that means it's quite creamy compared to a longer aged cheese, less salty, less developed flavor.
Okay, I have a question about Havarti cheese Oh, they don't know anything about it. Oh, but I was gonna say you know I think of have already so have already been another mild white cheese anyway, but I think I have already is being extremely creamy. Do you know what makes it that way? So like, it feels like you can almost smear it.
Matthew Amster-Burton 11:49
I mean, I think like the the less the less aging a cheese has the creamier it's going to be but there are like other aspects of the cheese making process that I don't really understand. Okay, we should we need to do like a cheese deep dive sometime and dive into a vat of cheese.
Fair enough. Okay, so Jack is often I mean, I think of Colby Jack. I think of like a these kinds of cheeses show up cubed on a deli tray, a deli tray, or, you know, I remember when I worked at the
Matthew Amster-Burton 12:22
university, did you know it's called a deli tray because it was originally created by a dowel
when I worked at the university and would have to sometimes attend like some sort of like universe city reception or something. There was always a tray of a lot of cheese cubes. And there was always that like, Port Stilton thing. Yeah. And there was always Kobe Jack, which is totally marbled. Right, orange and white.
Matthew Amster-Burton 12:49
Yeah, and I think I think Kobe is exactly the same as mild cheddar. Okay, that's, that's my impression. So yeah, so it's like, kind of to have pretty much the same cheese but what is colored colored and what is not?
And how do they get marbled?
Matthew Amster-Burton 13:02
That's a good question.
I mean, if we just like if we shredded a bunch of Monterey Jack and shredded a bunch of Colby, mix them together, and I don't know like crammed them in a shoebox or something and then like, stepped on it.
Matthew Amster-Burton 13:15
That's the monetary process right there. It involves a shoe box by USDA standards.
I was just thinking of how to get it in a low form. I
Matthew Amster-Burton 13:22
think probably they take like they've made the cheese and it's maybe like not fully aged, or maybe even is fully aged and and like cut it into cubes, like toss the cubes together and then like mush it just enough that they can smoosh them back together. Maybe? I don't know. I feel like it might like leak and get greasy. If you did that. That's a good question.
So should we start tasting these things? Yeah, sure. So
Matthew Amster-Burton 13:55
I ended up with three like I got the storebrand I got the tiller MK which sila SW says is better than storebrand. And we'll see about that. And I got the pepperjack from the Murray's Cheese counter which I don't know if that's any better than the pepper like the Telemark pepper jack.
I don't think I've ever had Pepper Jack. Oh, seems like a really good thing it is. So I'm gonna I'm gonna start here with Lucerne,
Matthew Amster-Burton 14:16
and none of these other than maybe the pepperjack are really made to be tasted plain. Not that you can't. That's tasty. It's fine. Yeah.
It tastes like salt and milk. Yep. Okay, this is the Tila muck. Oh yeah, this is better.
Unknown Speaker 14:29
Oh, this is better. Oh, let's see. I mean,
Matthew Amster-Burton 14:33
but that tilt the tilma Jack tastes like a you know, a mild chamomile chatter. Yeah,
that's delicious. I like that. Okay, I'm gonna try Pepper Jack.
Matthew Amster-Burton 14:41
Oh, yummy. I wonder when I first tasted Pepper Jack because I feel like it's a thing I would have been skeptical of as a kid. Oh, yeah, pig, but like, at the same time, it feels like kind of a kid's cheese. Oh yeah, we got Wheat Thins here also.
Okay, I'm gonna cleanse my palate. For jack man how so how did Pepper Jack come to be? You know well think about it I mean the
Matthew Amster-Burton 15:05
thing about Jack is because it's so like mild it's a great palette for adding flavor so like there's like a log features cheese local local cheese maker they make like a jack that they flavor a few different ways like there's like a you know, jerk spiced version and I don't remember what else but like if you're gonna take a cheese and and you'll make a flavor cheese Jack is usually a good place to start because it's inexpensive and plain flavored.
Okay. And again, so we don't really know how it differs from mild white cheddar.
Matthew Amster-Burton 15:40
It doesn't really so like there is there is like a like a chattering like kneading process that cheddar it usually goes through that is optional for Jack, but I think in practice it is a mild chatter.
Okay, so what about Vela? Dry Jack?
Matthew Amster-Burton 15:57
Okay, so I was pleased to see that Vela dry Jack involves one of our favorite things on the show. A too good to be true accidental food invention. So like, Oops. Well,
Unknown Speaker 16:10
I like Ruth Wakefield and the chocolate chip cookies.
Matthew Amster-Burton 16:14
I was watching. Yes, exactly. I was watching Top Chef. And on a recent episode of Top Chef they were talking about chimichangas and alleged that the chimney Chaga was invented when someone accidentally dropped a burrito into a deep fryer. Oh my god, like so. Okay, so, quote, Wikipedia dry Jack was created by accident in 1915 when a San Francisco wholesaler forgot about a number of wheels a fresh Jack he had stored as World War One intensified and shipments of hard cheese from Europe were interrupted he rediscovered the wheels which had aged into a product his customers found to be a good substitute for classic hard cheeses like Parmesan. So like the like the theme of all these stories is that like you know people people who work in food are stupid and like, you know, constantly forgetting because like they never have ideas like fried things are tasty What if I fried this burrito? Or like H cheeses are tasty What if I age this cheese that I've been making?
Isn't doesn't fella dry Jack have something rubbed on the outside of it? I can't remember.
Matthew Amster-Burton 17:20
I think you're right when I looked on their website. First of all, Villa Villa Creamery has a delightful website that looks like it's from like 2002 and they make dry jacks in like, eat of 10 different Aging's and like, you know, premium quality levels.
I wonder who who buys them and what for?
Matthew Amster-Burton 17:41
Well, I mean, it's it's a tasty eating cheese. You know, I was hoping to find it like at the Murray's Cheese counter at QFC and they didn't have it but it certainly wouldn't be out of place there.
So how do you use Jack like when when do you buy it and what do you usually buy?
Matthew Amster-Burton 17:55
I usually buy cheap Jack char Bran based on this tasting. I might spring for the Telemark. Although I don't know if I would notice the difference after it's melted which is what I always do with it. So mainly I use it for enchiladas and tortilla soup and enchiladas when I want to like get some like crispy cheese on top because it crisps really well without you know like we if you like crisp up a sharp chatter it's going to like separate and get kind of greasy yes Jack doesn't do that as much probably because of the higher moisture level. Okay, I made it recently for the first time in a while because it is a huge project this stacked Green Chicken Enchiladas recipe in it the recipe is in my book hungry monkey so everyone go out and buy my old ass book. It's a good one you make you make like a soup plate kind of a stack chicken enchiladas with layers of like chicken and green tomatillo sauce and and cheese and and corn tortillas just laid out flat and then you put a ton of cheese over the top and boil it to the cheese crisps around the edge of the soup plate the rim and Jack works perfectly for this and and it's so tasty.
Do you say it's a ton of work because you make the tomatillo salsa from scratch and all the other things
Matthew Amster-Burton 19:07
Yeah and also you put some cowboy beans on the bottom so you'd make those to your in your like fry each of the tortillas real quick. It's it was an all day project but it was very tasty. Oh that sounds great. Okay, other than that, when I make tortilla soup, I know like what kind of cheese is supposed to go in tortilla soup like you want to tell everybody what kind is supposed to go in like a cotija or like you know a crumbly like Mexican cheese. I like to take like cut up little tiny cubes of of Jack cheese and put them in my tortilla soup it gets like you know kind of sticks to the spoon and you have to like claw it off when you're when your tea that it's chewy and stretched like stringy and very satisfying and like very silly.
No I do like a you know a semi from cheese like this and tortilla soup Yeah, I'm thinking of this soup. So there used to be this Mexican restaurant in San Rafael, California that was owned by some family friends of my aunt. And actually maybe it's still there. Anyway, they made a sort of a, like a, like a chicken and rice soup with like a Mexican inflection to it that they called soba Guadalajara. Maybe it is a Guadalajara specialty. And that always has like graded jack cheese or a graded like soft white cheese on top and God I love that.
Matthew Amster-Burton 20:30
Yeah, like anywhere like I could I could be using like a Wahaca cheese totally. And it would serve the same purpose and probably be better honestly.
Yeah, it has more flavor. Yeah. What about I mean, do you use jack cheese? Would you use it on nachos? Or like yes it is but you have recently
Matthew Amster-Burton 20:47
made some nachos with like a mix of jack and cheddar. I like cheddar better for nachos. I like cheddar better for all of those things. It just has more flavor and like I like how when I make nachos we did a nacho episode right? Yeah, we did. I like to just like scatter shredded cheddar onto the chips and bake it until it's like bubbly and really like glued on to the chips and and like it cheddar works well for that it just has more flavor than Jack
Yeah. Okay, I get that. Wow, well, what would you use pepper jack for?
Matthew Amster-Burton 21:17
Oh, pepper jack on a grilled cheese sandwiches really good sounds good. Pepper Jack on a burger is very good. Although I love like I will I will often like roasted poblano chili and put that on a burger. That's my probably my number one favorite burger topic. This is like a shortcut but like sometimes I will make myself like like a fast food style smash patty burger for lunch and pepperjack is so good on that and like the I feel like the key the key to making like a good smash patty burger like most people like if you read like you know friend of the show, Kenji Lopez all I'll talk a lot about like, you know how to get the best crust on the burger with the best smashing technique and like when to salt and stuff. For me it's really all about using way more salt and pepper than you think you should because that's what they do at fast food places. And it's so good.
Unknown Speaker 22:03
Yum. Wow. All right.
Matthew Amster-Burton 22:05
That was that was just a little a little taste of Jack for Yeah,
well I feel like this was a really good summer episode because man pepper jack on a burger. That sounds so good to me. Yeah,
Matthew Amster-Burton 22:15
you can make it the summer of Jack.
You could make it the summer of Jack. But don't be like David Jack's.
Matthew Amster-Burton 22:21
No, don't be.
Don't be like him find a difference.
Matthew Amster-Burton 22:25
We know like after this episode. You you? You thought maybe like we were suggesting that you become a land Baron. But just the opposite. Yeah. Be more like Jack from Titanic.
Unknown Speaker 22:35
I don't remember what he did except follow up with rose.
Matthew Amster-Burton 22:41
I mean, he's a he's a sketch. He's an artist. Oh, he's
Unknown Speaker 22:44
sketchy. Like he's,
Matthew Amster-Burton 22:46
he's a sketchy, sketchy. Like, like, go go around like, like drawing like, like French curls? Yeah, like Yeah, exactly. That's what we stand for here.
Yeah, okay. All right, Matthew. It's my week to do an album. Wow. Please do
this one, you know, I have a feeling that our listeners may already know about this. But if you have not yet watched the show Pachinko on Apple TV. You haven't absolutely should so I read the book. Did you read the book? Chinko Oh, it's fantastic. I think it might be too sad for you. Yeah. Anyway, multigenerational story, a Korean family and deals with basically the the oppression of the Korean people historically by by Japan. Yeah. And anyway, parts of it take place in Korea, parts of it take place in Japan. The book is incredible. by Min Jin Li if you haven't read it yet, read it. If you want a shortcut version, like a pepperjack version of Pachinko you should watch the show to a drama series on Apple TV. It has a fantastic cache, including Unia Zhang. What What else would I would I know that she was in was it? Oh my gosh. menari. Okay. Is that the name of it? Yeah. She won some big award for that. She was at an award ceremony sometime in the last couple of years and like, was teamed up with Brad Pitt to like announce an award and she was funny and like delightful. Anyway, South Korean actor Eun Jung and she is in Pachinko. It is fantastic. on Apple TV. Watch it. It's beautiful. Oh, and don't watch the dubbed version. Oh, okay. Yeah, don't watch the dubbed version.
Matthew Amster-Burton 24:46
No, I never do if I can help it. Yeah. All right. Pachinko on Apple TV. How long are the episodes?
I think they're about an hour and I can't remember what it was so absorbing. We didn't really ever look at the clock. Anyway, so yeah oh my gosh oh I just I also love the like opening sequence like I love it anyway it's just it's great I love it
Matthew Amster-Burton 25:09
Can I Can I throw in a little bonus now but wow is which is just like a you know something something that I've now been wowed previously but he's back for season two okay kung fu on the news back back for season two. We're like three episodes in and Episode Three was really funny like it's, it's it's a really delightful silly fun show. Okay, that's it's like the opposite of Pachinko kind of the opposite of Pachinko. Alright, our producer is Abby circuito Ella you can rate and review us wherever you get your podcast maybe you already did. You can you can hang out with with some some cool lilies. I'm we're trying this out as we're calling.
We did this last year. I
Matthew Amster-Burton 25:50
know now we're doing it every time. Lots of podcasts have like a thing that they call their listeners like like, I don't know what neighbor podcast. Hold on. I'm
watching a bicyclist out your window, like get ready to hop on a bike while like actively smoking a cigarette. That guy's so cool. This guy and he's riding down like a very steep hill. I am fascinated by the life choices he's making right? Yeah,
Matthew Amster-Burton 26:15
like so. Like we talked a lot on last. Oh, he just hooked one. Wow. Yeah, last episode we talked a lot about like, much more than we usually do on the show about like, like things that are healthy. Sorry, I brought that up. No, no, it's okay. But like I feel like you know that really primed me to like to understand the contradictions that are going on just outside the window with this guy who's riding a bicycle and smoking and and like heading down like the steepest hill in the neighborhood. But but not yet still standing there. Okay, here we go.
Unknown Speaker 26:48
Matthew Amster-Burton 26:49
Is he gonna make it? We don't know. He made it like 10 feet we can't see all the way down the hill from here. Okay, anyway, name a podcast. I'm putting you on the spot here.
Nate. Just name of the podcast. Well, this is what came to mind first. It's not representative the Ezra Klein show.
Matthew Amster-Burton 27:05
Okay, so So probably the Ezra Klein show has like, like Ezra Klein probably has something that he calls his fans like like Klein heads or Klein bottles or as he's so
Unknown Speaker 27:16
I think I think Kleiner kinder,
Matthew Amster-Burton 27:18
I think we're calling our listeners lilies unless this is like some kind of slur that we don't know about in which case like,
we're not calling our listeners this. It stands for listeners, I'd like to yuck.
Matthew Amster-Burton 27:29
it in a nice way. Okay, I think some listeners are totally into it.
Listeners, tell us what you want to be. On Reddit on
Matthew Amster-Burton 27:39
the Reddit reddit.com/are/everything spilled milk. Someone's going to start a thread about what should spell duck listeners be called. I
think they should be called by their names. Okay, they should be called by our names. Collect call them by your name.
Matthew Amster-Burton 27:53
We will call them by our name. So like Molly's
Molly's and Matthews. Okay, yeah, and they can. Yeah, we're really into binary genders here. So no, I
Matthew Amster-Burton 28:01
think they should all be called Molly's I think it has a better ring to it. Okay, if you use too many consonants No.
Matthew Amster-Burton 28:08
All right. So until next time, to all the Molly's out there. I'm Matthew Amster-Burton.
And I'm Molly.
Matthew Amster-Burton 28:19
Know You're the Molly
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