Peggy, Piggy, and Pork

September 9, 2016

Mullen-It-Over

Back when David Letterman was king of late-night television, he featured an occasional segment called “Brush with Fame.” A few audience members would be invited to share their stories about a time when they had had a brief encounter with someone famous. Here is mine; I just wish I could have a “do-over”!

Peggy Fleming Figure SkaterFor a time, the National Pork Producers Council, headquartered in Clive (Des Moines), had a well-known personality as their spokesperson, Olympic figure skater and gold medalist Peggy Fleming. (I hear you. Probably most of us wouldn’t have thought of her if asked to consider potential pushers of pork products.)

It was around 1988 when, out-of-the-blue, I was asked by a local marketing/PR firm if our home could be used for an all-day film shoot for a training and promotional piece for the National Pork Producers Council. Peggy Fleming would be there all day with  Pork Council people, the marketing team, and a film crew. “Hmmm-let-me-think-about-it-YES-of course! Are you kidding me!” I was in a dither, but there was a catch. The whole thing was going to happen just a day-and-a-half later. Could I really be ready in time? Our two kids were in elementary school; we had a demanding, curmudgeonly wiener dog; I was doing some freelance writing projects; and I was knee-deep in volunteer work. But I couldn’t say no. The crew was to arrive by 8:00 a.m. on the appointed day, and I was to have the entire house ready to go since they weren’t sure which rooms they would be using.

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Our porky little puppy Schultz loved hanging around with his family; however, guests always greatly disturbed his universe. So, he didn’t get to meet Peggy Fleming.

Winding up that invisible key my back, I  set about to spiff the house, top to bottom. The Messy Cook was a blur of activity—and bitchiness—according to certain family members’ recollections. I stayed up the entire night before, and by morning, the house was respectably clean and tidy. In those wee hours before dawn, I resorted to throwing open the door from the house to the garage and wildly heaving out bags of garbage like I was at the city dump—dog toys, Star Wars figures, magazines, books and games. I would salvage the important stuff later, but I couldn’t worry about it then. One little mishap during the bag-tossing phase. I slipped off the step mid-fling and went flying to the floor. “This is gonna hurt,” I was thinking as the concrete rushed up before me. Fortunately, I landed on top of the bag. It popped like a balloon, breaking my fall and blasting the contents out from underneath me. Without missing a beat, I rose up, ran back inside for a final check of the house, and then scurried upstairs to shower off all the garbage molecules. Bob got the kids to school and deposited “Mr. Hangdog” at the kennel. I did it! I was ready to greet them at the door like Perle Mesta! (You remember the “hostess with the mostest,” right? Google it.)

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Film crew equipment has been streamlined a bit since 1988, I do believe.

I spent the morning watching the filming. Peggy, a wife and mother, was a nice, normal, still-very-attractive woman. Between a few of the takes I got to chat with her about her kids, carpooling, pets, her home in California, etc. And before I knew it, the crew announced that it was noon and a catered lunch was being served in the garage. Hold it! Say what?? Served where??? No one had told me that I had to have a clean garage too! My heart stopped beating—only the adrenaline coursing through my body managed to jump-start it again. I willed myself to the garage to behold where lovely Peggy Fleming was going to sit down to lunch.

My brain could barely process it. All of the garbage bags had been stacked on the outside wall of the garage, out of sight. The remnants of my garbage-bag crash-landing had been whisked away. Bicycles, lawn mower, lawn spreader, Weber grill, garbage cans, etc. had been moved outside toward the back of the house. Rented tables and chairs were set up with white tablecloths, flowers in vases, napkins, etc. A buffet table of food was arranged along the front. Unfortunately, an absurd gallery of grimy, discordant objets d’art still adorned the interior walls—tennis rackets, weed killer, bug sprays, sports balls, rakes, shovels, gas cans, cobwebs, spiders, dust. I was in a shame spiral. The floor should have been scrubbed, the walls repainted, music piped in, maybe a chandelier hung from the garage door opener. If only I could have had one more day. Why didn’t they set up the lunch on the patio or in the rec room? Why, why, why?

Of all the daydreams I ever had, I never conjured up one that included Olympic skater Peggy Fleming and the pork producers sitting down to lunch with me …. in a pigsty.

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Could we all pretend that this was my garage where Peggy Fleming and the film crew and staff sat down to lunch?

Foodiva

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Packed with precious pork cargo and praying there’s no delay!

Speaking of the National Pork Producers Council, Iowans have access to some of the finest pork in the country. Whenever Bob and I go to Arizona to thaw out for a few weeks, I freeze a pork loin roast and some pork tenderloins, specially cut and tenderized by the butcher, and then I pack them in my suitcase. I keep my fingers crossed that my luggage doesn’t end up in an American Airlines lost-luggage netherworld. That would be bad! I’ve been lucky so far. Our son and wife, who live in the Phoenix area, look forward to a couple of memorable meals created from my personally imported Iowa pork.

I’m pleased to share two of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy pork. They aren’t gourmet recipes; they are simply guidelines on how to make a flavor-infused rustic pork loin roast as well as some of the most luscious fried tenderloin sandwiches ever. A bold statement, I know. My mom and dad were masters of these two pork-centric meals; they always recognized how important the quality of the meat is in a meal’s success.

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Even our cat Benny enjoyed scraps from Mom’s roast pork dinners.

In addition, a perfect Blue Cheese Cole Slaw recipe from my friend Rodie Gibson and a flavor-filled curry dip appetizer for fall from my friend Denise Dornbier round out the recipes featured in this post.

Trying to understand the characteristics of different cuts of pork can be confusing to the uninitiated. Quite frankly, I don’t know all of them myself, and I wouldn’t bore you with these details anyway. If you remember nothing else from this post, just know that the two pork recipes I am sharing with you today are not made from those prepackaged pork tenderloins that come two to a package and are often marinated.

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These pork tenderloins are NOT the cut I use in the two pork recipes featured in this post.

The first recipe requires a boneless pork loin roast. It is a gorgeous cut of meat and is much bulkier than those prepackaged long, skinny tenderloins. The difference between these two cuts is quite obvious, and they come from  different parts of the animal. The pork tenderloin is thin and long, with darker-colored meat, and is usually trimmed of most fat, while a pork loin roast is wide and blocky, with excellent pink color, and a layer of creamy fat attached to the top. Often the pork loin roast will be tied with string or a stretchy net. Sometimes two of these large roasts are tied together. (I have never understood why anyone would want to buy them this way, though.)

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This is a beautiful pork loin roast, which is the featured cut in my family’s “Roast Loin of Pork in Wine and Rosemary” recipe.

Pork tenderloins (the long, skinny ones) are best quickly cooked over high heat, while my favorite, the pork loin roast, is better for slow-roasting. It’s the words “loin” and “tenderloin” that cause confusion. And when I talk about the next recipe, which is my version of the pork tenderloin sandwich, you may really get confused. You just have to keep in mind that, even though we call them “Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches,” mine are not made from the long, skinny tenderloins; mine are made from the loin. (The cut I use for my tenderloins is the butterfly pork chop, which is basically the same pork loin roast, except it has been cut into slices.) I know, I know. I’m sorry. Just try to hang in there. I think you’ll get it as we go along. And I have included photos. (Even though I have pushed you to the limit, you should also know that there is also wonderful “prime” cut, which is the pork loin plus some shoulder meat. It is great for making pork carnitas, a recipe I featured in my Cinco de Mayo post. But no worries, we’re not using that cut in this post.)

img_2138Okay! Now, back to my mother’s pork roast dinner, with its fragrant aromas of onions, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, and wine wafting from the oven. This Sunday dinner (always served at noon) was on a regular rotation with other family dinner favorites. Over the years, my sister and I have made our own tweaks to our pork loin roast recipes. Here is how I like to do it. I like to cut off the girdle of fat off the top and then rub on a thin layer of olive oil to keep it moist. Leaving the flavorful layer of fat intact is always a delicious option, and believe me, my mom and dad would never remove this. Their roasts often included the bone, making it extra delicious. However, I started doing it this way several years ago as a way to enjoy it in a slightly more healthful version. If you try it, you’ll find that you won’t miss the extra fat. The meat may be a bit drier, but when you ladle the  pan-roasted drippings over the meat, it becomes quite moist and fragrant. As you can see in the top photo on the left, the loin comes with a layer of fat still attached to the meat and it’s wrapped in a stretchy string. The photo just below it, shows the string and top fat have been removed.

fullsizerender100Let’s also talk briefly about one of my most essential tools in the kitchen—no, it’s not the few All-Clad cooking pieces that I own (even though I adore them); it’s my small (13-inch), inexpensive oval Granite Ware covered roaster pan. My family and Bob’s family have always used them (and I’ll bet many of your families have too). The pan makes such excellent roasted meats, evenly distributing the heat, while helping the meat to brown and stay moist. The small oval ones (also available in a round size) are becoming harder to find. Usually Target and Wal-Mart carry the very large ones but not the smaller ones. Good news, though; they can be ordered through http://www.amazon.com or http://www.walmart.com. I also have the medium (14 or 15-inch) and the very large (16 or 17-inch) roasters, so I can accommodate every size/amount of meat that I am oven-roasting.

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I couldn’t live without my Granite Ware roaster pans.

Roast Loin of Pork in Wine and Rosemary

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Roast Loin of Pork in Wine and Rosemary

  • Servings: 6 to 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 3-pound pork loin boneless roast (not the prepackaged long, skinny tenderloins)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium-to-large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 8 ounces cut and peeled baby carrots
  • 1/2-cup water
  • 10 to 12 small new red or white potatoes (with skins on, unless they are particularly thick), washed, and cut in half

Remove string (if there is one) and fat from top of the pork loin. Place it in a 13-inch Granite Ware roaster pan. Pour the olive oil over the roast and roll it around in the pan a few times to cover well. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, paprika, and rosemary evenly over the roast. Tuck the bay leaf along the side. Arrange the onions and garlic all around the edge of the roast. Cover with lid. Place in 350 degree oven for 1 hour. After one hour, pour in the wine along the sides of the pan around the roast and return to the oven; reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Set timer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place the carrots in a microwave-safe dish with the half cup water. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. After the 30 minutes is up, remove roaster pan from oven and carefully place the carrots and water all around the edges of the meat and then add all the cut potatoes on top of the carrots. Sprinkle lightly with more kosher salt and pepper. Return to oven for 45 minutes or until toothpick is easily inserted into potatoes. Remove pan from oven. Place meat on cutting board to rest 10 minutes before cutting. Place potatoes and carrots in a serving bowl or on a platter surrounding roast. Pour all the pan juices (which includes all of the soft pieces of cooked onion) into a sauceboat or a small bowl with a ladle to pass).

Recipe from messycookblog.com

If there is leftover pork, you are in for another treat. Simply shred it, add any leftover pan juices (if no juices remain, just add a small bit of water), add your favorite barbecue sauce to suit your tastes. Heat in a small pan until hot. Pile onto fresh buttered buns toasted on a griddle. That’s it!

Fried Pork Loin ‘Tenderloin’ Sandwiches

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True confession: I have not had a restaurant-made pork tenderloin in years. Yes, I was always afraid of what was hidden under all that breading. No fatty, gristly, pounded-flat, deep-fat-fried-to-a-crisp mystery pork for me and my family. The picture below shows what my pork tenderloins look like before they are cooked. Totally lean, trimmed, boneless loin. (Hint: I choose the best-looking butterfly pork chops in the meat case at Hy-Vee, and then I ask the butcher to “run them through the tenderizer in both directions.”) When I am ready to make them, I cut them in half vertically. (Remember, butterfly chops are really just one thick boneless loin chop that has been sliced horizontally in half, but not quite all the way through, and then pressed open so that it looks like twin pieces of meat hooked together.) I trim all the fat (some people want to leave it on; I don’t). One package of two butterfly chops makes four tenderloins.

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Fried Pork Loin 'Tenderloin' Sandwiches

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 4 “tenderloins” trimmed of fat and cut from two tenderized (in both directions), boneless butterfly pork chops (total weight of meat will be about 1.2 to 1.5 pounds)
  • 1 beaten egg (more, if you are making more than 4 tenderloins)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed, but not super-finely (more, if making more than 4 tenderloins)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Fresh bakery buns
  • Butter
  • Dill pickle slices
  • Yellow mustard (or ketchup or mayonnaise, if preferred)
  • Lettuce leaf (optional) (“No tomato” is my rule; it sogs up a beautifully crunchy sandwich.)

Dip pork in egg wash (the egg, milk, salt, and pepper beaten together) and then into cracker crumbs. Press down on the crumbs to make sure both sides are coated well. Cover bottom of large, non-stick skillet with oil, about 1/8-inch or so deep. Allow it to heat steadily until it is hot but not so hot that the oil is smoking. (You NEVER want that.) Place the four breaded loins in the skillet. They should be sizzling nicely. If so, you may turn the heat down a bit, but don’t let it cool down so much that it is not sizzling. They should fry for about 3 minutes, or until they are looking nicely browned. Then turn them over gently and cook for another 3 minutes, still sizzling but not intensely so. Be sure to salt and pepper each side as you turn them. Turn them over again for another minute or two, and then turn once again for another minute until they are a perfect crisp golden brown on each side. So, the tenderloins are turned a total of 4 times (2 times per side). While they are cooking, place four fresh, buttered buns (top and bottom) on a large griddle on the stove on medium heat to toast them to a golden brown. Remove the bun halves as they brown and place on a platter. When tenderloins are finished, place one on each bun. Set out pickles, yellow mustard, and other desired condiments on the table. Dive in!

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The finest pork, lightly breaded and coaxed to a tender-crisp, golden brown. These are, bar none, some of the finest tenderloins you will ever taste.

Recipe from messycookblog.com

Baked beans go great with tenderloins, but a tangy cole slaw is really the perfect partner. My friend, Rodie Gibson and “almost cousin,” created this recipe several years ago, and has shared it with plenty of friends. Topped with creamy crumbles of blue cheese, it is always a hit. (And how is Rodie my “almost cousin,” you may ask? Because she is my mother’s mother’s sister’s daughter’s husband’s brother’s wife. The whole six-degrees-of-separation thing!)

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My friend Rodie Gibson, a wonderful cook, wife, mother, and grandmother, is a true connoisseur of life.

Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

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Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

  • Servings: 8 or more
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 1/2-cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons grated onion
  • 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
  • Cracked pepper
  • 1 cup light vegetable oil, like safflower or canola
  • 1 16-ounce package shredded cabbage and carrots
  • 1 8-ounce package crumbled blue cheese

Combine all but last 2 ingredients and blend in blender or with a whisk. Just before serving, pour dressing over cabbage. Add crumbled blue cheese and toss.

Recipe from messycookblog.com

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Simplicity! Pork tenderloin sandwich with classic yellow mustard and sliced dill pickles, some tangy Blue Cheese Cole Slaw, and a cold Bud Light. You’re welcome!

I adore my friend Denise Dornbier’s Curry Dip, which she serves with a variety of fresh crunchy vegetables. One day I was thinking, “Why wouldn’t roasted veggies be just as delicious as fresh ones, especially as a pretty fall appetizer?” Indeed! It was also delicious and pretty!

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My friend Denise Dornbier knows how to prepare some amazing dishes. In her family of one husband and three sons, she had plenty of practice over the years.

 Curry Dip (Served with Oven-Roasted Veggies)

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Curry Dip (Served with Oven-Roasted Veggies)

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Curry Dip

  • 1 cup Light Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon vinegar
  • Optional: Tracy likes to add 1/2 teaspoon of Sriracha sauce for a little kick.

Mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately, or chill.

Oven-Roasted Veggies

  • Cut up a combination of your choice of fresh broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, butternut squash, etc. (all about the same size)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon or more (to taste) kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Stir everything together to coat well. Spread into single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the vegetables become browned and crispy.

Place dip in bowl in center of plate. Arrange the veggies around the dip. Serve warm, if possible, but cold is fine too.

Recipe from messycookblog.com

Curiosities

I was hanging out in the produce aisle the other day when I happened upon something I hadn’t seen before, chocolate and white bell peppers. I think the produce manager sometimes keeps an eye on me because I like to stalk new and unusual produce. (While he stocks, I stalk.) Who doesn’t like to discreetly fondle and sniff produce when at the store. Right? I bought one each of the peppers and took them home to taste. I think the chocolate pepper tastes just like a red bell pepper. The white bell pepper is more anemic-tasting. There’s a hint of bell pepper flavor, but not much. I do think they would be gorgeous sliced on a fall-themed fresh vegetable platter, though. By the way, the chocolate pepper is much browner than it appears in this picture. I think these newcomers are a lovely addition to the fall vegetable color palette.

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A recent thrilling discovery was the most beautiful sparkling wine I have ever seen—a gorgeous shade of blue! My friend Teresa Choi introduced it to our mah jongg group. (We have been known to enjoy a bit of bubbly while we’re stacking the tiles.) It is called Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux; she got it at Ingersoll Spirits and Wine for about $20 a bottle (but it does go on sale once in awhile). Made from California chardonnay grapes with an “added hint of blueberries,” it is effervescent and bright-tasting. I found out that it has been produced since 2006; obviously I didn’t get the memo when it first came out. I’m sure it must be popular for weddings and wedding showers. You would swear it had been bottled at Tiffany’s!

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My friend and libation trendsetter Teresa Choi with a bottle of Blanc de Bleu Cuvee.

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When I was at Hy-Vee last week I enjoyed seeing carved … no, not pumpkins … watermelons! These two specimens celebrate Iowa State University and University of Iowa sports teams. I’ll bet they are a hit on the tailgate circuit. Clever!

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Last Bites

Peggy Fleming OlderHere are a few more interesting things about Peggy Fleming. Her gold medal in figure skating, earned at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, was the only gold medal that the U.S.Olympic team won during those games! She has been a television commentator in figure skating for more than 20 years. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, she conquered it after successful surgery and became an activist for early breast cancer detection. Fleming, 68, and her husband, Greg Jenkins, have two sons and three grandchildren. The couple owned and operated Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery in California, until it closed in 2011, after seven years in business. She was mentioned frequently in the Peanuts comic strips in the 60s and 70s because Snoopy had a crush on her. An odd factoid: Fleming became the spokesperson for the Robitussin “Last Names Giveaway” in 2011, because her last name sounds like a flu and cold symptom that Robitussin treats—phlegm. (I don’t make this stuff up, people.)

She was a darling of the media for many years, and for me, it was an unimaginable brush with fame to spend a brief time with her. At the end of filming, she went upstairs to our master bath to remove the heavy makeup that she had to wear. Later, I found the makeup-smeared white fluffy wash cloth next to my sink …. I’ll just let you wonder if I kept it.

A few weeks later, she sent three autographed photos with personal notes to Bradley, Kelly and me. I would have included them in this post but, alas, they are misfiled in The Messy Cook’s “intricate” filing system. As Snoopy would say, “Sigh.”

Thank you so much for reading my posts! I hope you will come back for the next one on September 23rd!—Tracy

 

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17 thoughts on “Peggy, Piggy, and Pork

  1. LOVE THOSE LITTLE PORKERS (SANDWHICHES, THAT IS). SURPRISED THAT PEGGY HADN’T ASKED ABOUT ME! WONDERED WHY YOU ASKED YOUR FAVORITE GARDENER TO TAKE THE DAY OFF, THAT DAY. AND I TAKE PAUSE OVER YOUR INSULT AT AMERICAN AIRLINES AND LOST LUGGAGE! YOU COULD EXPECT SUCH WITH UNITED OR SOUTHWEST, BUT AMERICAN, I THINK NOT! (OR SO I HAVE HEARD) YFBIL

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  2. There is NOTHING like an Iowa pork tenderloin sandwich. But don’t pretend you don’t occasionally serve it with Dutch Crunch potato chips, even though that blue cheese slaw would be a hit with my friends! As you know, we’ve lived many places, but no one produces the pork tenderloin sandwiches like we had in Iowa. But YOURS, Tracy, were always the best, trimmed of all excess fat, and so gently and carefully fried. They are a rare treat. However, I doubt that Peggy Fleming ever ate such things. She was a Class Act and a beautiful lady.
    And remembering your beloved dog Schultz and our old cat Benny was fun. Great pictures.

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  3. Just started reading this but had to scroll through to preview the pictures (ah Schultzy!) and featured recipes. Bradley and I were just talking about those Pork Loin Sandwiches! So yummy!

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  4. You made me so hungry for something new, but yet not new. I am finding it somewhat difficult cooking for just two people. Funny thing is, I gave both my girls my large and medium oval granite roasters, then I went out and bought two new granite roasters. Sigh! I am running out the door and heading to the market.

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