Digestible Bits and Bites #87, July 2020

Digestible Bits and Bites

The monthly newsletter of the
Culinary Historians of Canada
Number 87, July 2020
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For this month’s 1920s cooking challenge, CHC board member Jennifer Meyer baked Nellie Lyle Pattison’s heavenly-looking angel cake from The Canadian Cookbook, first published in 1923. See more antique culinary treats below!


  1. CHC News

  2. News and Opportunities

  3. Destinations

  4. Food for Thought (book reviews)

  5. Events of Interest

  6. International Conferences

1. CHC News and Upcoming Events

New YouTube Video Starring Julian Armstrong
We have continued our series of video interviews with prominent Canadian chefs, cooks and food writers ("Behind Every Great Cook Is a Great Mother"). The newest installment is our chat with Julian Armstrong, a CHC honorary lifetime member and an acclaimed food journalist and cookbook author based in Montreal. CHC members John Ota and Julia Armstrong are the interviewers.

We are grateful to Employment and Social Development Canada for support received through the New Horizons for Seniors grant program to help CHC pursue digital projects. Our thanks also to Penguin Random House for its support of this series.

CHC AGM Notice

This year’s annual general meeting (AGM) will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2020. Given current circumstances, the CHC board feels that it is prudent to hold this meeting via online video. Watch upcoming issues of this newsletter and our Facebook page for more details about the forum for this meeting and how members and guests can participate.

All 2019-2020 memberships expire on the day before the AGM; only members in good standing have voting privileges. Please renew your membership by clicking the link to our membership application and renewal page as soon as possible before the day of the AGM. Membership is still only $30 for one year (or $55 for two years). Please note that those who renew, join or reinstate a lapsed membership after today (July 1) will be credited with membership until the fall of 2021.

As a volunteer non-profit organization, our greatest strength is in our members, whose talents and vision move us forward. There are board and committee positions to be filled at this year's AGM. If you would like more information about the positions and job descriptions, contact CHC Secretary Lori Jamieson at

Food Day Canada: Our Canadian Cooking Challenge for July

Food Day Canada falls on August 1, and we're inviting you to get involved as part of our Canadian Cooking Challenge for this month.

The rules are simple: whether you’re shopping at a farmer's market, grilling at a campsite or having a quiet meal at home, just add #FoodDayCanada to your posts on Instagram and Twitter. You'll find inspiration from the wealth of Canadian recipes to be explored on the Food Day Canada site in the section called Cook Like a Canadian!

If you post pictures and comments on our Facebook page on or before Friday, July 24, we'll also feature you in next month's newsletter. We look forward to seeing what you discover!

New Cookbook Online
Here's an image from a nifty trilingual cookbook (German, Polish, Ukrainian) published by the Gillett company, the firm that produced such perennial staples as Magic Baking Powder. It dates from about 1926.

The full publication is now posted to the Canadian Cookbooks Online page of our website, along with searchable digital facsimiles of many other significant Canadian cookbooks dating between 1825 and 1945. Enjoy!

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair News
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair has been part of CHC's annual calendar for many years. The 2020 edition, which would have taken place this coming November, has been cancelled. The Royal has been cancelled on only one other occasion, during World War II. At that time, the stalls within the historic Royal Horse Palace were transformed into Army barracks to house soldiers preparing for deployment to join our Canadian and Allied troops fighting in Europe.

As of now, the organizers are still planning to hold the Agricultural Food Competitions, so CHC may still be a sponsor of the Heritage Jam and Heritage Pickle categories in the Preserving Competition. We will circulate more information as it becomes available. They are also promising some virtual programming in the fall.

The next live event is scheduled for November 5 to 14, 2021. In the meantime, RAWF has released a touching "au revoir" video.

Cooking in the ’20s

Last month, we challenged our members and friends to try out a 1920s recipe and post the results on our Facebook page. To make it easy, we suggested they use one of the cookbooks posted to our website, such as the 1925 edition of The Canadian Cookbook by Nellie Lyle Pattison (first published in 1923) or the 1924 edition of 350 recettes de cuisine: les écoles ménagères provinciales by Jeanne Anctil (first published in 1912). Here are the results!
Lorraine Janes prepared this fresh and springlike Eggs à la Goldenrod from The Canadian Cookbook. She writes: “My mother made this for me as a child from her version of The Canadian Cookbook, which she used in her domestic science class in the 1930s. She is almost 99 years of age and still has the book.”

Lori Jamieson selected Mock Duck with Brown Gravy from The Canadian Cookbook and reports that “Mock Duck was often served in my mother's home, so this was a nostalgic choice. I couldn't find round steak at my butcher's, so I used flank steak instead. I'd hold out for round steak for the next time. I modified the recipe by browning the outside of the rolled steak before roasting (my mother's method), and I cooked the onions in butter for the dressing, which is very tasty.”

Ellen Pekilis made Shepherd’s Pie with string beans and mashed potatoes from The Canadian Cookbook. “I added the optional Worcestershire to the meat filling,” she writes.

"The mashed potato topping just said ‘add seasoning,’ so I figured a large handful of fresh chives from the garden was fair game. But when it came to the beans, I just couldn’t boil them for 25 to 45 minutes. I know it’s not authentic, but I just couldn’t. Even boiling for 10 minutes was a compromise for me; usually I just steam them for five minutes and don’t boil them at all, because that leaches more vitamins from them. (At least I think it does, although I will stand corrected if that turns out to be wrong.) But I just can’t boil them to mush.

“Perhaps the green beans of 100 years ago were tougher and needed longer cooking? The book referred to ‘string beans,’ and the green beans I get at the grocery store have long since had the strings bred out of them.”

Jennifer Meyer prepared a complete 1920s meal (pictured above and below) based on recipes in The Canadian Cookbook: Roast Duck with Potato Dressing for Duck, Scalloped Vegetables Angel Cake (see photo at top) with Stewed Rhubarb. “All were delicious!” she writes, adding that “The wild rice was included as an Indigenous food because June is National Indigenous History Month. While the ’20s were roaring for many and agricultural land expanded, many Indigenous Canadians were forced off their lands.”

Anje Merkies, who owns copies of both of our suggested sources, baked Fruit Rolls from The Canadian Cook Book (pictured below), which she describes as being “like super quick and easy cinnamon roll deliciousness.”

Susan MacFarlane baked Peanut Cookies from The Canadian Cookbook. As she says, “they have a mild peanut flavour with the texture of hermit cookies.”

Marie Polski went with a “lemon” theme, choosing lemon-based recipes from two books: Lemon Jelly from her own 1927 copy of The Canadian Cookbook and Sorbet au Citron from her 1915 copy of 350 Recettes de cuisine: Les écoles ménagères provinciales by Jeanne Anctil.

“Because I've not used my high-school French much since graduating, I used Google to translate Ms. Anctil's French recipe to give me a better chance at successfully making the Lemon Sorbet,” she writes. “We enjoyed the home-made Jell-O, but we found the Sorbet au Citron to be a little too sweet, a bit runny and not especially lemony. However, we happily discovered that drizzling the Lemon Jelly with some of the Sorbet turned out to be a tasty dessert.”

Here is an English translation of the Sorbet au Citron recipe. Note that it calls for the making of an Italian meringue. If you're not familar with this process, it may be helpful to watch an instructional video first.

285.—Lemon Sorbet 
Ingredients: 2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, ½ cup lemon juice, 3 egg whites, 1 cup sugar, ½ cup water

Cook the water and the cup of sugar for 15 minutes, cool and add the lemon juice. Put this mixture into an ice-cream maker and freeze it. (You must take care to break up the ice very fine and put in 1 or 2 parts coarse salt to 2 to 3 parts ice.) When this mixture is half-frozen, remove the paddle from the ice-cream maker and add chilled Italian meringue made with egg whites, sugar and water; that is: beat the egg whites very firm and pour boiling syrup over it made of 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water and cooked until it makes threads. Replace the paddle and turn again until firm. Serve in glass bowls.
More 1920s dishes pictured below:
  • Top left: Lori Jamieson made Chocolate Blanc Mange from The Canadian Cookbook. She has been researching early 1900s rural Ontario recipes and says that blanc mange (a cornstarch pudding) figures prominently among them. She notes that “this recipe has minimal sugar and very gentle flavouring. It is delicious. I'm not sure why the 45-minute cooking time; it didn't take that long to thicken.”
  • Top right & middle left: Stephanie Thomas baked Nellie Lyle Pattison's Hermits (above) and Oatmeal Cookies (below). She reports that “the Oatmeal Cookie recipe says ... the cookies are improved by putting rolled oats through a meat chopper.” (She tried this technique, with good results.)
  • Middle right & bottom: Sherry Murphy made a Chocolate Marshmallow Cake and a Meat Pie (both images at bottom) from the booklet Good Things to Eat Made with Cow Brand Baking Soda (1924).

Ann Arbor Sets Us Right

To our embarrassment, Randy K. Schwartz, Editor of Repast (the quarterly publication of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor, Michigan), informs us of an error in our last issue.

"Digestible Bits & Bites is always informative, interesting, and well constructed," he kindly begins. "I believe that a name is misspelled twice in the June issue: It should be
Lord Woolton Pie, not Wooton. Thank you,"

Chastening as it is, we're most grateful, Randy!

2. News and Opportunities

Happy Canada Day!
In honour of the day, Canada's Department of Heritage is holding a “unifying and colourful” culinary challenge called "Let's Cook Together!". It features a heartwarming video of kids across the country testing the recipe for celebrity chef Ricardo's “Super Cool Burger,” and a challenge to try it out.

The recipe is posted in the O Canada Activity Pack, which also includes other Canadian recipes supplied by museums and cultural organizations across the country, like Bannock from page 54 of the Métis National Council's Métis Cookbook.

Taste Canada Shortlisted Cookbooks 2020
Now in its 23rd year, the Taste Canada Awards / Les Lauréats des Saveurs du Canada has announced the shortlist of cookbooks competing for the coveted culinary-writing honour. Eighty-six cookbooks entered the competition, featuring authors from seven provinces. The shortlist narrows the competition to five entries per category, featuring authors from six provinces.

Among nominations of note for CHC members is Lost Feast: Culinary Extinction and the Future of Food by Lenore Newman (in the Culinary Narratives category). Lenore has presented two talks for CHC, including a discussion of this book at University of Toronto Scarborough early last December.

Also, three of our featured video series guests have been shortlisted: Joe Thottungal for his Coconut Lagoon: Recipes from a South Indian Kitchen (nominated under Regional / Cultural Cookbooks); Julie Van Rosendaal for Dirty Food: Sticky, Saucy, Gooey, Crumbly, Messy, Shareable Food; and Michael Olson for Living High off the Hog (both under Single-Subject Cookbooks). You can watch them discussing these books and other culinary matters on our YouTube channel.

Oxford Goes Online
The Oxford Food Symposium is pivoting for 2020; it's now a virtual symposium (or "V-Symp," as they're calling it). It runs from July 10 to August 2, 2020, and online registration is now open. The organizers write: “This is the moment to put into practice the Symposium’s mission on yet another level: V-Symp 2020 will be engaging, meaningful and enjoyable, employing user-friendly technologies allowing a broad and diverse audience to contribute, including many who might otherwise not be able to journey to Oxford. Come and join us!”

What’s Cooking? (Member News)
CHC MEMBERS: Please let us know what you're up to! We'll publish all suitable news items received at by the 25th of each month. (Please write your announcement directly into your email window, with no attachments except a photo. Be sure to include a web link for further information!)

CHC Vice-President Samantha George is also curator at Parkwood Estate National Historic Site. She writes that “due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 wedding season at Parkwood was cancelled, or weddings that were planned were postponed to future dates. One of the things that couples and our wedding co-ordinators are struggling with, moving forward, is the unknown of what weddings and receptions will look like in the future. What kind of limits on numbers for gatherings, especially events booked indoors, will we be working with? What will food preparation and service be? Will buffet service still be allowed? (As an aside, the film industry food service, AKA craft, has been highly affected and changed.)

“Knowing this, and with the need for the wedding business to continue for our revenues, one of the Parkwood historic foodways groups, War in the Kitchen, has joined forces with KRE, the Parkwood wedding contractors, to review and present WWII weddings and menus to couples as the inspiration for having a charming, budget-friendly, yet still fantastic small wedding.

“Many will remember that War in the Kitchen is a six-year program that is following the menus and advice of the Toronto Star food columnist Marie Holmes, and we are recreating her menus from 1939 to 1945. For the wedding project, we are continuing to follow her advice and menu suggestions. This is being photographed and presented to our wedding clients. Keep an eye on Parkwood's social media pages, as our first of three photo shoots is in July. Using the past to inspire the future!”

In other news:
  • Board member Fiona Lucas was quoted in a June 15 article by Prajakta Dhopade in Maclean's titled “How a Canadian Depression-era recipe went viral during the 2020 pandemic.” It explored the sudden popularity of a recipe for peanut butter bread from the 1932 edition of A Guide to Good Cooking, published by Lake of the Woods Milling Company (the makers of Five Roses Flour) in Ontario.
  • John Ota's book The Kitchen continues to receive attention. He has been busy this month with talks and media interviews, including an interview with Libby Znaimer on Zoomer Radio (his segment starts at 9:22). John's book and CHC's series of YouTube videos, which John hosted, also received a nice notice from new member Mary Bilyeu in the Toledo Blade.
  • Board member Sarah Hood received an honorable mention at the 2020 National B2B Magazine Awards for her four-part series in Foodservice and Hospitality magazine about the Canadian restaurant industry, covering the Pacific Coastthe Westcentral Canada and the East Coast.
Join the Culinary Historians of Canada!

The membership year runs from one annual general meeting (usually in October) to the next. Download a membership form here and join us today! 

3. Destinations

Do you know of a great historic site with a food program? Send a short article with one or two of your best photos to by the 25th of the month to have your write-up included in our next issue!

Mrs. Fyke's cupboard at Great Sandhill Museum by Lauren Fyke.

Great Sandhill Museum & Interpretive Centre (Saskatchewan)
by Jane Black

Combining what is arguably the best desert in Saskatchewan with 1900s history, the Great Sandhills Museum & Interpretive Centre launches visitors into 1,900 square kilometres of sand dunes, some of which are 15 to 20 metres high, in southwestern Saskatchewan. Located 3.5 hours from Regina and an hour north of the Trans-Canada Highway, the museum contains ten replicated businesses from the pioneer village of Sceptre.

A visitor can find all the necessary implements to stock a pioneer kitchen in the General Store. Outside the museum proper are four village buildings, including the Anglican church, an early 1900s house, a village office, and a barn-type building used as a shop and rough sleeping quarters for seasonal workers.

The 1900s house. Photo by Mary Anne Peters.

In the pioneering spirit of leaving nothing to waste, the kitchen cupboard in the early 1900s house was built from the V-joint wood left over from finishing the inside of a 1916 sod house. The kitchen features a wood-and-coal stove and water pump along the interior wall. Both this kitchen and the one in the recreated “Mrs. Fyke’s boarding house” contain a staple of Prairie home kitchens, the Medalta bowl, made at the well-known pottery company located 187 kilometres southwest of Sceptre.

Reflecting the many settlers of Ontario origin, Mrs. Fyke’s boarding-house kitchen display contains a mason jar with the handwritten note “This honey was produced by Armstrong Mills in Ontario in 1902 by William Darby; it’s unpasteurized, broken jar, Melted down once in 1988, and put into a new jar and of course sample okay, its pure buckwheat.”

Apart from culinary and historical interests, the site includes information on the local environment and wildlife, activities for energetic children, and the world’s largest metal wheat sculpture.

The 1900s house. Photo by Mary Anne Peters.

4. Food for Thought

Have you missed a book review? You can read reviews from all our past issues online. If you are a CHC member who would like to contribute, please contact Elka Weinstein at or Sarah Hood at


Super Sourdough: The Foolproof Guide to Making World-Class Bread at Home by James Morton (Hardie Grant, Quadrille Publishing, 2019). Reviewed by Sher Hackwell (pictured above).

Sourdough bread making—a subject recently topping Internet food searches—can be an intimidating process. Enter Super Sourdough. Many tips and videos are proffered online, but this exhaustive guide to sourdough bread has you covered. As author James Morton asserts, it takes a lifetime to perfect the art of sourdough.

Having achieved renown as a solid contestant on The Great British Bake Off, Scot Morton, a professional baker and medical doctor, directs his expertise toward a scientific approach to baking. Morton unpacks what he considers to be the elite jargon of bread making (autolyse, retardation, lamination) by repeatedly using these terms until they become ingrained.

What I appreciate about Morton's approach is that right from the start he befriends his readers with guidance and support by sharing his own trials of failed and discouraging attempts. The curriculum opens with an instructional Ten Tenets of Sourdough. Then, in Ingredients and Equipment, he gives a description of flours and essential tools, illustrated with colour plates, and a preamble to the science of sourdough—a subject expanded upon in successive chapters.

Traditional bakers of like mind will find Morton heartily proposing the use of local ingredients and exhorting readers to revolt against refined white flours. He shares his preferred ingredients in Suppliers on page 255. Morton also supports local artisans like potter Natalie Smith, whose pieces are featured in photos throughout the book.

The weighty yet concise chapter Pain au Levain schools bakers on the complex process of sourdough bread in concise detail—accompanied by the useful colour plates. Happily, Morton also blends in some humour: “the following pages are dense, and some might say a little dry, but read them, and hopefully, your loaves won’t be.” Upon conquering Pain au Levain and its related chapters—Understanding Dough, Understanding Starters and Bread Troubleshooting—we’re rewarded with Relaxed Recipes, starring some familiar favourites: Neapolitan-style pizza, focaccia, baps and buns. Bakers are now able to confidently apply their knowledge to a broad range of recipes in the following chapters.

In White Breads for Sharing, Morton recreates traditional bread recipes like Pain de Mie, San Francisco Sourdough and an outstanding Ciabatta. Little Breads, with recipes for buns, pretzels, bagels and Mexican Bolillos, is Morton’s favourite chapter, as the recipes demand repetition, resulting in an eventual mastery of these “little breads."

Darker Breads features a country Miche, an Einkhorn Batard and Spelt Batons. Morton extols the benefits of using freshly milled flours and assures us that, despite the challenge of working with dark doughs, “This is where the flavour is and where most people fall truly in love with bread baking.” Bitty Breads explores a variety of doughs thoughtfully married with additions of nuts, seeds and olives in loaves of Walnut Levain, Seeded Pumpernickel and a Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf.

Thankfully, Morton addresses the Internet’s popular sourdough query concerning (what to do with) Leftover Starter by responding with inventive recipes for Banana Pancakes, Pappardelle, Crumpets and Cornbread.

In tackling such an enormous subject, perhaps chapters like Bitty Breads and Enriched (Donuts, Brioche, Panettone and Kugelhopf) might have been better suited to a subsequent book. I envision a sequel that will expand on ingredients, flour and milling, as well as advanced techniques and the storied history of sourdough.


The Clever Gut Diet Cookbook by Clare Bailey & Joy Skipper (Simon & Schuster/Atria Books, 2018). Reviewed by Luisa Giacometti, pictured above.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, claimed over 2,000 years ago that “all diseases begin in the gut.” Dr. M. Mosley, author of The Clever Gut Diet, points out in the foreword to this book that new research tools are enabling scientists to probe the gut and to uncover the impact of the 1,000 different species that live in the gut, their effect on you, and yours on them. He adds that there has never before been so much interest in the human gut and its tiny inhabitants, the trillions of microbes that make up the microbiome. Recent findings show that gut health has an impact on our mood, weight and immune system.

In fact, the gut is sometimes referred to as our second brain. Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, it helps in understanding the links between digestion, mood, health (general wellbeing) and cognition. Another area of research is how the signals from the digestive system affect metabolism, raising or reducing risk for health conditions such as type 2 diabetes. This is all co-ordinated between nerve signals, gut hormones and the microbiota or bacteria in our guts. Gut health is a fascinating area of study, with astounding results that we have yet to fully comprehend or discover.

Dr. Clare Bailey followed up her husband’s book by producing The Clever Gut Diet Cookbook with the input of a nutritionist, Joy Skipper. Bailey has been a working doctor for over 30 years. She uses her love of food and interest in nutrition to help her patients improve their gut health. 

The first thing I noticed about this cookbook is how much care has gone into providing an explanation of what the Clever Gut Diet is all about. Bailey emphasizes that the diet is based on “real food” such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, olive oil, cheese, meat and fatty fish and less of starchy pizza, pasta, potatoes or bread. The diet has a Mediterranean twist, but draws upon healthy cuisines from all over the world.

She then moves on to food groups and the microbiome, describing seven categories: protein, healthy natural fats, dairy, grains, fibre, prebiotics and probiotics, and polyphenols and phytonutrients. An explanation is provided for each category and how it can be used in improving gut health while avoiding some of the more problematic foods. The authors then explain which ten gut-friendly foods are best, and why they selected them. 

There is a section on intermittent fasting with tips for doing it safely, including how to establish healthy habits on an ongoing basis. However, the focus of this cookbook is to repair and improve your gut health, and to this end Bailey outlines how to do this in Phase 1 (removal and repair) and Phase 2 (reintroduction and recovery). Bailey ensures that this is a simple process by inspiring us with two pages of ingredient suggestions that will give variety and interest to your adventure.

The recipes are the highlight of this book. They include breakfast, light meals, dressings and flavourings, main dishes (that you can show off to friends and family, who would not suspect you are improving their gut health), interesting vegetable servings, ferments and, of course, treats, which means breads and desserts (this is where the fibre is hidden!!).

The recipes are easy and the instructions are detailed and can be effortlessly followed by either a seasoned cook or a neophyte. For example, I really enjoyed the Chinese Noodle Jar and the Apricot and Pistachio Bars. It is especially nice to note that the ingredients can mostly be sourced at your local grocery store. 

I am a visual person, and one thing I look for in a cookbook is the inclusion of photos of the finished product. This book does not disappoint, and features tempting full-page dishes. I also like the suggestions and short introductions at the beginning of each recipe. I appreciated the wealth of information I learned in plain language, with plenty of examples and references.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is suffering from gut problems or simply interested in improving their gut health, as it will certainly help them achieve overall wellbeing.

Review Contributors
  • Luisa Giacometti
  • Gary Gillman
  • Sher Hackwell
  • Sarah Hood
  • Maya Love
  • Sylvia Lovegren
  • Fiona Lucas
  • Elka Weinstein

5. Events of Interest

Compiled by Jane Black, Kesia Kvill, Sarah Hood & Julia Armstrong

For the last two issues of Digestible Bits & Bites, there have been no public events to write about. Now, though many museums and historic sites remain closed (including all of Toronto's historic sites and the Museum of Agriculture and Food in Ottawa), a few are resuming some version of their regular programming this summer: Here's hoping that the roster increases in coming months!

6. International Conferences

Compiled by Julia Armstrong and Kesia Kvill


July 10 to August 2 (Oxford, England) – MOVED ONLINE (see news item, above)
Theme: Herbs & Spices.
Registration for the V-Symp (virtual symposium): Standard ticket £80, student ticket £40; register here.

September 23 to 25 (Antwerp, Belgium)
Organizers: International Society for Ethnology and Folklore.
Theme: Food, People and the City: Comparative Perspectives. A look at food production, distribution and consumption as cultural practices, in different periods and societies.

November 13 to 14 (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Theme: Food and the Environment: The Dynamic Relationship Between Food Practices and Nature.
Venue: University of Amsterdam.


May 13 to 15 (Guelph, Ontario) – MOVING ONLINE 
Theme: Kitchen Table Talk to Global Forum.
Venue: University of Guelph.
Previously submitted paper and panels will still be considered and the call for papers deadline has been extended to 30 September. Zoom or Webex are likely platforms for the conference and previously planned activities will be adapted to this new format.
Of note: The RWSA is an international association that promotes and advances farm and rural women’s/gender studies in a historical perspective.

September 7 to 10 (Rome, Italy)
Theme: Eating on the Move (19th21st Centuries).
Venue: Roma Tre University.
CFP deadline: 30 November 2020.
Across the far-flung regions of Canada, a lot is happening in the fields of food and history. This monthly digest is a forum for Canadian culinary historians and enthusiasts to tell each other about their many activities. This is a place for networking and conversation about Canadian culinary history happenings. Each month, Digestible Bits and Bites is shared with members of the Culinary Historians of Canada and other interested persons who ask to be on the distribution list. 
The Culinary Historians of Canada would like to share this digest with a wide audience. You are encouraged to post or forward this information. 


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