About Tori Avey

About Tori Avey

Tori Avey weaves delectable tales with delicious recipes to create the perfect balance of wit, wisdom, and wonderment. She brings our culinary history to life and inspires our modern day kitchens with her timeless recipes. Every morsel is delicious!

-Mark Dacascos, The Chairman – Iron Chef America

Tori Avey has quickly become one of my very favorite food personalities on the web. She has made me appreciate the history of the foods we eat, and has inspired me to branch out beyond my culinary comfort zone. I absolutely love what she does.

-Ree Drummond, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Welcome to my website! My name is Tori Avey. I’m a film and television producer, screenwriter, and food blogger. If you’ve found your way here, it’s probably because you love cooking. Me too! I am fascinated by the history of food and the stories behind our favorite recipes– why we eat what we eat, how cultural foods have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today.

If you’re looking for a professional press bio, click here. If you’re wondering how the heck I got into this whole blogging thing, read on!

This website is the culmination of a journey that started when I was a little girl. As a child I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents, Grandpa Clarence and Grandma Lois. Grandma and Grandpa did their best to enrich my days with art, music, film, and history. Weird kid that I was, I soaked up the culture like a sponge. Grandpa Clarence screened old historical films in the living room like Cleopatra, Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. Grandma Lois, an artist, set up a small easel in the barn so I could paint alongside her while she told me about the lives of her favorite artists – Van Gogh, Monet, Degas. Grandpa showed me maps of the world in old atlases he’d collected, pointing out the ancient city of Troy and spinning tales of Helen and the Trojan Horse. We weeded the vegetable garden and harvested the sweet, fresh tomatoes from the vine while we chatted about Thomas Jefferson and his garden at Monticello. Grandma and I cooked dinner together using the fresh produce I’d picked with my own two hands—always a dish that was slightly exotic, with a new spice from India or couscous from Morocco. Then after dinner, my favorite part of the evening, they would set up a projector and show me slides from their travels, giving me a glimpse of the world beyond my small California hometown. Because of my grandparents, I grew up curious and excited about world history.

Tori Avey - ToriAvey.com

With my Grandma and Grandpa Avey

In my twenties, cooking became a major focus of my life. I’d always been comfortable in the kitchen, but I wanted to be a great cook—a real “balabusta,” as they say in Yiddish. I was inspired by the exotic meals I’d cooked with my Grandma Lois, as well as the food my Israeli husband grew up with—the Middle Eastern Sephardic cuisine of his mom, and the Russian Ashkenazi cuisine of his dad.

As I became more skilled in the kitchen, I began to collect vintage and historical cookbooks. It started as mere curiosity. I wanted to know how my Great Grandma Arnold made a pie from scratch, so I bought a cookbook published in 1908 from her home state, Nebraska. Then I started wondering about that pie’s journey… where does strawberry pie come from? What are the origins of pie? Did pie start sweet, or savory? I looked for historical cookbooks that could point me in the right direction—The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Josepha Hale (1841) led me to American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796), then back to The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1747).  The further back in time I went, the more questions I had. I became a food sleuth. Everything I cooked was a mystery, and I made it my mission to dig up the roots and origins of every dish I cooked.

Tori Avey - ToriAvey.com

In 2010, I started a food blog called “The Shiksa in the Kitchen.” As a writer who loves food, it was a natural progression. It was just a hobby at the start, a simple diversion. I had writer’s block while working on a novel, and I needed to shift gears for a few weeks, so I started a little cooking blog. Originally the focus of the blog was Jewish food—I’m a convert to Judaism, and my husband grew up in Israel, so I had a particular interest in the roots of Jewish cuisine. Over time, my nerdy side led me to create a place for exploring all facets of food history, from ancient Mesopotamian meals to the cocktails of Mad Men and everything in between. I gathered a group of distinguished contributors— food writers, professors, and cookbook authors who all shared an interest in historical cookery. Another blog, “The History Kitchen,” was born. Over time keeping up with two popular blogs proved complicated, so I ended up combining them here at ToriAvey.com. The rest, as they say, is history!

Food is a way of communicating; I believe the energy we pass on through our cooking feeds the body as well as the soul. By writing this blog, I am learning right beside you. I do not have a PhD in history, nor am I a classically trained chef or a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. I started this blog to learn more about our culinary roots. Consider this our shared virtual culinary classroom– a place where we learn not only how to cook delicious food, but how that food came to be in the first place. Every kitchen has a heritage and every recipe has a writer. Knowing the story behind the food– the ancient history, or the family history, or even the history of one particular ingredient– can infuse a dish with meaning. And then a meal becomes more than just food, or something that fills you up physically. Food takes on a deeper significance, and ultimately becomes more nourishing.

If you have found your way to my blog, you are probably somebody who loves food or history. This is a space for us to learn and grow together, inspired by our delicious past. I invite you to subscribe to my website for blog updates and the latest news. You can also friend me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I love hearing from my cooking friends, and I do my best to respond in a timely manner to comments posted here on my website (I’m not always successful with that, but I do try!). I’m so please you are here and part of our growing cooking community.

Have a question? Please see my list of FAQ’s below.

Looking for my contact information? Click here!

Cooking with Friends

Cooking with Friends


Readers often email me random questions about the blog, my cooking, and life in general. I’ve compiled this list of the most frequently asked questions to help you get to know me better. If your question is not answered here, please feel free to contact me!

When did you start your blog? January 1, 2010

Where are you from? I grew up on the Central Coast of California. Now I live in Southern California with my husband, my sweet stepdaughter, our two pups Marley and Milo, our cat Muffin, three parrots and lots of koi fish… in other words, a small zoo.

How did you learn to cook? I learned to cook the old fashioned way from friends and family members who have generously shared their recipes and cooking know-how with me. I’ve also taught myself by reading cookbooks, particularly antique and vintage ones. I like knowing how to make dishes from scratch before I take any shortcuts. It provides a solid foundation and a deeper understanding of what a dish is supposed to taste like.

Me and Grandpa Avey

How did you become interested in food history? I’ve always loved history, a trait that my paternal grandparents passed down to me. My Grandpa Avey was a walking encyclopedia of historic knowledge. I caught the history bug at an early age, and I integrated it into every part of my life. I wrote historical stories as a kid and performed in Shakespearean plays as a teenager. I even dabbled in historical screenwriting. So when I started teaching myself how to cook, my first instinct was to find out the history behind the dishes I was cooking.

Does somebody take your photographs for you? I do most of my own photography; I do have a couple of photography contributors as well. I am not a trained photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy taking pictures. I use a Canon 5D Mark II for the “beauty shots” of my finished recipes. For the step-by-step photos, I use a Canon G12 point and shoot.

Can I use one of your photographs or blogs on my site and/or in my publication? All content (photographs, writing, and graphics) on this website is copyright protected, and cannot be used without my permission. If you would like to request permission, please contact me.

What is your favorite part about cooking? Nourishing others… and eating, of course! I love food. I always have. Case in point, check out this picture from my first birthday:

Nom nom nom…

How do you stay in shape when you blog about such rich dishes? It’s not easy! Especially since I hate working out. I think I’m allergic to exercise. Most of the time I eat pretty healthy Mediterranean and Sephardic style food. I indulge in rich dishes once in a while when I’m traveling or on holidays. When I notice my jeans fitting tighter than normal, I watch what I eat till I shed a few points. My husband and I have recently become addicted to bike riding, which helps. I also enjoy yoga. But I try not to stress about it too much. Life is there to be enjoyed. I subscribe to Julia Child’s motto – “Everything in moderation… including moderation.”

I try to provide a balance of both healthy and indulgent recipes on my website. I have a Healthy Food category for all of my lighter recipes, click here to take a look.

Where do your recipes come from? I feature original recipes that I’ve developed in my kitchen, taking what I’ve learned about spices, flavors and cooking techniques to create my own unique dishes. Some of the recipes featured on this site come from family, friends, and blog readers who submit their personal recipes along with their family story. Once in a while I share a recipe from a cookbook; a lot of my friends are cookbook authors, and I love to share their work. Many of my posts feature historical and vintage-inspired recipes; I also have several contributors that blog about food history. I never post a dish that I didn’t really enjoy eating– it has to taste great to make it onto my site. If it’s not something I’ve created myself, the source will be credited in the blog.

Do you have a cookbook? Not yet!

Are you Jewish? Yes, I converted to Judaism in 2010.

My conversion to Judaism

Why do you include a kosher key on your recipes? The vast majority of recipes on this website are kosher-style, meaning no pork or shellfish. I also do my best to keep dairy and meat recipes separate for the sake of my kosher readers. From time to time a contributor will share an article about a non-kosher ingredient or recipe; those posts are clearly marked “non-kosher.”

How did you learn so much about keeping kosher? Part of my conversion to Judaism included learning about the kosher laws. I also educated myself about the subject when trying to decide if keeping kosher was right for me. I do not keep kosher personally, and I am by no means a kosher expert, but I have learned quite a bit about the subject. I’m happy to share what I have learned with you. If you have a question, feel free to comment on my blog and ask!

Keeping it natural since age 6.

Do you have any hobbies besides cooking? I love to write and travel… and write about traveling! I especially love to visit other countries and try new foods I’ve never tasted before. I am also a screenwriter and family entertainment producer… yes, I lead a dual life as both a food blogger and a storyteller. Life is funny!

What is your favorite cookbook? This is a very tough question to answer. I love so many cookbooks, for so many reasons! I am a big fan of my late friend Gil Marks’ cookbooks as well as his historical research, so I must give him a mention here. I often blog about my other friends when their cookbooks are published. If I come across something great, I will blog about it to share it with all of you!

At a Greek Restaurant in Paris

I have a recipe and/or a family story I’d like you to blog about. Where can I submit it? I absolutely love hearing and blogging about family food stories! If you have a story and/or recipe you’d like me to consider, please submit it here.

Have a question you don’t see an answer to? Email me or comment me on the website and I will try my best to get back to you. My email inbox looks a lot like my spice drawer– full to overflowing– so if you don’t hear back from me please don’t take it personally. I try my best to keep up with all the emails, but sometimes I just can’t. Know that I read each and every email I receive, and I thank you for taking the time to write!

Comments (233)Post a Comment

  1. I found your sit because I was looking for a good Israeli-style hummus recipe. Then I decided to try making felafel… Then I was curious so just started exploring. I love your blog – and I rarely if ever get so enthusiastic about blogs, but yours is just fantastic! So thank you and well done, and I know I’ll be back for more recipes or just to see what’s new.

  2. Oh how I miss the little Jewish bakeries near my childhood home in NJ. Challah bread is definitely one of my favorite things in the world. Great blog! Thank you so much for sharing so many wonderful recipes.

  3. Tori,
    I was looking for instructions on how to smoke whitefish at home and found your blog. I love it and will sign up as a follower.
    By the way, your post on whitefish salad made my mouth water. I have always loved Jewish food, having had wonderful parents who were holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe who brought Jewish cuisine to our family meal tables daily. My dad would take me to the real thing kosher delis in Washington, DC in the 1950’s where he would buy whitefish, sable, half sour pickels from the barrel, hand sliced lox, fresh rye bread with seeds, pastrami, and corned beef, some of my favorite things to eat.

    1. Hey thanks Larry! Happy to have you here. Half sour pickles are the best… my friend called them “armpit pickles” because you’d have to reach down into the barrel with water “up to your armpit” to grab them. Not the most appetizing name, but funny!

  4. Dear Tori,
    I write a column on food at our sinagogue magazine. Our is the biggest community in Brazil. http://www.cip.org.br
    The column consists in an explanation about a near festival, a recipe of a famous chef and a breaf biografy of the chef.
    I would love to publish one of your recipes for our Rosh Hashana issue. It has to have less than 1300 leters, and I would need it for this week. Sorry for being so short on time, but I hope you can contribute with our magazine, because it would make this issue very special!
    Thank you!

  5. As someone who is beginning to immerse themselves in the Jewish faith, and who also loves food, I love your blog! So insightful and helpful. Love the post about your conversion. Since I’ve begun dating a Jewish man, I’ve thought a lot about the conversion process and feel very similar to the way you do about why to convert. It’s so much more than just doing it to make a relationship work, like some think. The Jewish faith is so rich and beautiful. They are a dedicated, family orientated and loving people. Can’t wait for your next recipe!

  6. About the last photo on this page and please don’t take this the wrong way, you visit Paris and go to a Greek restaurant????

  7. Hey Tori,
    Just want to thank you for this wonderful site I found by searching for great purim cookies and found yours to be beautiful and delicious! (I used the butter one) I’m happy with the recipe and will be using it from now on. I’ve always wondered how they made that poppy seed filling and never got the right recipe until now….and wondered how dulce de leche is made other than my own method. I submerge the whole can in water and boil it for about 90 minutes. I’m big on sweets and love to get great recipes that WORK :) So thanks for this and for sharing about yourself.

  8. Hi Tori! LOVE your blog and have been sharing it with EVERYONE I know! Can you please de-mystify rugelach for me– and I am Jewish by birth!

  9. Hi Tori-

    I also converted 15 years ago into the conservative movement. I love being Jewish!

    I just discovered your blog and LOVE IT! I just printed a stack of recipes to make. Thanks for having such a wonderful blog and all the hard work you do for all of us.

    Looking forward to learning and cooking with you!


  10. Hi Tori,

    Your site content is really interesting. That original recipe for potato baji sure sounded oily as ever. It almost sounded like Aloo (potato in Hindi) Makallah (means to Fry in Arabic). Are you familiar with this dish?

  11. Hello Tory.
    I’ve discovered your beautiful blog just recently and since prepared a couple of dishes – Sweet and Sour Eggplant and Bell Pepper Salad and the Smoke Paprika Fish – both came out wonderful. I’m looking forward to trying more.
    In case you can view the hits to your blog and are wondering how come you’ve been having more visitors from Israel, one possible explanations that I am the co-manager of a leading Kosher Food Forum in Israel and having tried your recopies recommended them and your blog to our Forum. Today, for example, someone said she’s trying you Pretzel Challah!
    So you have an emerging group of funs in the Holy Land..
    Since we have members from all over the world (Mexico, NY, Boston, NJ, France, Vienna, Canada, Switzerland etc), not to through Israel, I would like to invite you to visit our Forum – you can write something in English – everyone will be thrilled to see you!
    Have a great Shabbat,

  12. Good evening,
    I have a personal question and I was hoping if you would answer it. What inspired you to convert to Judaism and from which religion did you convert?
    Layali el-Khameesi.

  13. Hi, Tori!
    I am so thankful for the Shiksa in the kitchen. I heard first time about you today and went to find your blog.
    I love it, because of the way you are presenting all great Jewish food with the hystorical stories.
    Thanks for your great work!
    I will follow you on your blog, will try recipes (your way) and will ordering book.
    Good luck to you!

    1. Hi Dianne! I was not born Jewish, I converted in February 2010. I’m sort of an American mutt, my family heritage is Swedish, Swiss, Irish, and various other nationalities! :)

  14. I am really enjoying your blog. While I am not Jewish, I also eat kosher-style, partly due to family upbringing and partly due to Biblical observance. However, I am contemplating eating pork and shellfish as part of my new obsession with experimenting with different foods, and I think I’m going to take the plunge. I’m loving your recipes on here though because I can eat all of it! Thanks!

  15. Tori,
    I am very excited to go through your blog. Growing up in a reform household, there having been many meals where I understand the historic context though never have had real explanations of why we are eating certain foods. I look forward to understanding these concepts. Further, I too have a blog on the history of food- though foucsing oncultural preservation. http://www.goodfoodpreservation.com

    Perhaps I can interview one day- as you are technically a cultural preserver!


  16. I’ve got a question, since you’re a food anthropologist of sorts:
    What were the fats, besides schmaltz or butter that were used in traditional Ashkenazi cooking? Or did baking avoid this ingredient and rely on eggs?

    I’m thinking about this as I it is hard to find real traditional recipes, (whilst I amembarking on a sauerkraut experiment, written before the days of access to Mazola).

    By the way, I once read that the taunts between the Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewish kids were alternately, “chicken fat” and “Mazola”, and in Montreal, the Moroccan Jews were derisively called couscous. As a hybrid, I consider myself lucky, though I’ll take Mediterranean cuisine anyday over anything but a good Polish vegetable soup and a bowl of kasha with fried onions (in butter). :-)

  17. So nice to have met up at the blogger event last Thursday. I walked away with a lot of great points from your talk. Did you know that Skhiksha in Sanskrit/Hindi means education or “to teach”. So appropriate for your blog. Wish you lots of success!

  18. Tori
    I just wanted to take a minute and tell you just how much I enjoy your blog,The title of your blog caught my eye and my
    heart as I too am a Shiksa!!
    I look forward to your next blog.
    Barchot ve Tefillot

  19. Foodism Movement…that is awesome and I would like to join up! I’m already there–completely obsessed.
    (We currently belong to a Reconstructionist synagogue).

  20. Shalom, Tori!

    I am a Jewish convert, myself and love to cook. Your blog is my favourite! I was wondering what denomination you converted into.


    1. Hi Bernadette, thank you! I converted Reform, but the movements are constantly evolving, so I prefer to say I’m part of the Foodaism movement. :)

  21. Hello Tori,
    I tripped across your blog and immediately bookmarked it. I can tell I will be returning here often.
    I also used to be my husband’s “shiksa” (using that term loosely), but converted on our 5th wedding anniversary. For some reason I am also the one who cooks for all of the holidays and and all of the traditional foods–rugelach, mandelbrot, challah, etc.
    I am looking forward to reading your adventures, comparing recipes and hopefully adding a few to my repertoire.
    Todah rabah!

  22. I congratulate you for the interview, educational and indo l also for your blog, culinary traditions and teach about food, my blog is educational and traditional cuisine, that I inherited from my mother, I like your recipes, your photos, your children are beautiful, are very beautiful, big hugs and greetings.

  23. Thanks for visiting my blog and directing me to yours. You have a beautiful site here. Really look forward to your recipes and learning from you. Don’t know much about Jewish cuisine. Cheers :-)

  24. Dear Tory!
    Greetings from Shizuoka, Japan!
    I’m not jewish, vegetarian or vegan, but I have an interest in all gastronomies!
    Actually, I do have have many Jewish friends such as Natasha Rice (foodbuzz) and Robert Yellin (the greatest Japanese pottery dealer here in Japan!).
    I even worked (as a barman!) in a Jewish hotel in Bournemouth, England during my college time ( a long time ago!)!

    Superlative pictures!

    I’m looking forward topaying regular visits!

    Take good care of yourself (ves)!


    1. Thank you for stopping by Robert-Gilles! I miss Japan so much, such a beautiful country with the most incredible food. One of my favorite memories there was visiting the Tokyo fish market at 4:30 in the morning. I’ve never seen such enormous tuna in my life. Happy you found the blog, I’ll be checking in with yours as well! :)

  25. Wow, great site! I happened upon it today because, well, my wife of 41 years is also a shiksa who has not embraced “cooking Jewish”….which is okay as she is a great girl in every other way. Anyhow I had been wanting to make gribenes like my mom used to make for me and today had saved enough skin and fat to proceed, doing it the way my mom did. They were delicious but then I thought that there must be other ways different families made them over the years so went web-searching. Sure enough there are various ways, but of course my mom’s is best. She cooked hers slowly for a long time all together and they were more soft and chewy rather than crispy as some recipes call for. Plus sometimes she would put cut up giblets in halfway through which are also delicious.

    Thanks for the site!

    1. Thanks for reading RJ! So happy to hear you’re carrying on your mom’s tradition of cooking. Mom’s and Bubbe’s way is always best. :)

  26. You are not only a great and inspiring cook, you are a beautiful woman. My daughter-in-law is the convert and while she loves Jewish food depends on my son to cook the meals. I sent him your site to get more great recipes

  27. I have a cooking blog dedicated to the Itanian Jewish kitchen (la cucina Ebraica). My father’s mother is an Austrian Jew so, she’s the only one who understands “kugel” (NOT a Sephardic thing). In any case, I might give some of your recipes a try! :)

  28. I am a Food Journalist and write for many Jewish publications. My daughter just sent me to your blog…a great gift! Please let me know when your book is published…I’d be happy to PR it for you! B’tayavon!

  29. As a non-Shiksa, I have to say your Jewish recipes are out of this world, and they are so well illustrated! I improved my challah thanks to you (now they have more fluff and are better braided. Thanks!!

  30. I love your Shiksa blog. I am a Jewish Girl from Brooklyn, who’s married for 10 years to my favorite Shiksa – the Lutheran. Your recipes and comments are terrific and never fail to make me smile. Thank you!

    1. Hey Erika! Sorry it took me a while to respond, your comment came through when I was in Israel for Passover. So glad you found the blog, congrats on your blog too! I’m adding you to my Google Reader. :)

  31. I am probably being a dunce but I was trying to cliclk on a link that would get me to a list of recipes from the past, before going to any one individual.

    I am sure there is a link that I missed. Thanks.

    1. Hi Sandra, you’re certainly not a dunce! I am currently redesigning my site, hoping to launch next month. We will have a clear archive of my recipes at that time. Till then, use the Categories menu on my blog page here to look up recipes by category: link to theshiksa.com

  32. My favorite Jewish food is my father’s maztoball soup. It’s the dish that got my husband (a gentile) excited about Jewish food. It’s a distinctly Jewish food that my gentile friends and family aren’t afraid to try and end up falling in love with. And it’s my father’s recipe and I love him very much.

    I love the Shiksa blog because I love to cook and I love my Jewish heritage, yet feel slightly isolated in my Wisconsin setting. I grew up in West Virginia, had very few Jewish friends, and did not keep Kosher. Now I live in Wisconsin, married an amazing gentile man, and find myself interested in leading a fuller Jewish life.

    Your blog makes me feel comfortable about my lack of knowledge. You educate us in a way that is not assuming or intimidating. And I like you. Your blog is pleasant, fun to read, warm, and intelligent. And furthermore, I LOVE the history you include with your recipes. Thank you for all you do.

  33. I love the Shiksa blog as I grew up Catholic and married a Jewish man who wanted to keep kosher. I complied. But I love to cook all my favortes that I gre up with and your blog helps me translate some substitutions that are still very tasy. It keeps peace in our kitchen!!! Thanks so much for all the tasy recipe ideas. I especially loved the pumpkin challah as my husband’s brthday is on Halloween so I made this fro his Friday night -before birthday Shabbat. Then the French toast with it the next day was outstanding!!!!!

  34. It is truly delightful to follow such a contemporary, passionate young lady and your ambitious blog/website. My favorite Jewish recipes are those that continue to bring my family together. Instilling strong family values has always been a priority in our home and delicious homemade food to enjoy together is the link. The joy you bring your followers is a mitzvah as you inspire us with your new twists on tradition and knowledge to share with our families. Your sweet and sour meatballs were a hit this Superbowl Sunday!

  35. My favorite Jewish food or should I say “foods” are potatoes pancakes, knishes, matzo ball soup, gefilte fish w/red horseradish, crispy stuff derma, kugel and the list can go on and on. I enjoy it all!

  36. I love your website and FB page. I cracked up when i saw the name! Many years ago i was called a SHIKSA. I’m not Jewish but have Ashkenazi roots (i guess we all do going back to the garden of eden) What i do know is that I love, love, some of the traditions and food. Especially rugelach. I never thought i would be able to make it myself until i saw your recipe with the great pictures that made it seem so easy. Mine came out yummy. They didn’t look as pretty as yours but you gave me some tips for the future. Next I’m going to try a new recipe each week. So get moving girl and cook us up some new foodies!

  37. I love passing on our Jewish culinary traditions to my family….and they love eating them! This is the best blog/web site for keeping traditions alive!!


  38. hi! i’m so excited that i just found you! my favorite jewish food has to be my family’s kugel. i have eaten it for as long as i can remember. i can eat it for any meal- breakfast, lunch, or dinner! it is a sweet recipe. i have very fond memories of making it and eating it with my grandmother who is now deceased. she was the matriarch of our family and unfortunately, since her passing, i have lost some of my jewish connections. i don’t even know the last time i have been to synagogue i am ashamed to say. i moved from a very “jewish” area outside of philadelphia to south Louisiana and i am truly a minority. i am in the opposite situation as you are- i am jewish and my husband catholic. i hope that when we have children we will raise them jewish and then i will be able to be more involved with the small jewish community that we have here. in the meantime, i will be reading your blog and at least connecting to my jewish roots by cooking!!! thanks!

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