The Land of Kush: Vegan Food for the Soul

For Summer 2018, I have decided to vegan(ish). I started in June. Like my seagan that I was during Lent. Vegan foods and meals, sometimes with a side of fish. Although, as I have been diving deeper into plant-based vegan, I’ve been straying away from supplementing parts of my protein intake with fish. But, I’ve read horror stories about people becoming violently ill after ingesting even chicken broth after months of not eating meat. SO, that will not be me. Homegirl is definitely going to have meat once a month. So for my blog posts, don’t be concerned about all the meat posts, lots of my posts are queued up for future posting.

After a night of wild shenanigans, with my other vegan-ish friend, we went to a black owned vegan restaurant: The Land of Kush.

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I’ve been here once before, because my friend wanted some vegan crab cakes. Kush is known for having the best vegan crab cakes, buuuutttttt, it’s made out of gluten (seitan). I’m a bit gluten and lactose intolerant, so to avoid dying later, I had to take a pass on the crab cakes today. But honestly, I’m never going to not eat a real crab cake. So if I’m going to die, might as well have the real deal amiright?

 

It’s a cute little place. You can sit down and eat, but it’s mainly you go in, get your food, and dip out.

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Everything is pre-made and heated, for a fast casual experience. I don’t like soul food, so I stayed away from the usual culprits: collard greens, candied yams, mac & cheese…

 

I got the lentil burger with gravy (in the cup), “tuna” salad, and rice.

 

My friend got the collard greens and candied yams haha. But we both decided to get some of the fresh juice. She got the ginger spice (and boy, did it have a kick!) and I got the liver detox (after years of college induced binge drinking, my liver probably needed some extra TLC).

 

Goodness! The food was AMAZING. And man, it was hearty and filling. For the first time at a restaurant, I wasn’t feeling bloated and gross (probs because this is my first time eating something without any of my food intolerances and plant based so funny how life works). I brought the rest of my food home, and I cannot wait to finish the rest.

Anyways, we will see how the rest of the summer brings with my vegan lifestyle, and more importantly… how long I will be vegan. So, wish me luck.

La Tasca

Whheewww, child. I know it’s been a while. I would like to thank my followers who have reached out to ask me if I’m okay or if I need any emotional support. Truly. I am so sorry I’ve been MIA. First week of my dream internship is done, and I really do love every minute of it. The people, the other intern, and the work. Where I am in Baltimore is a biiiiiittttt suspect, but I’m also only a 10 minute walk to work, so you win some and you lose some. Once I have my affairs in order, I’ll start a new tab for Baltimore eateries. I will also continue to keep you updated about my adventures in London. As for the natural hair… I’m going to hold off on that new column. It’s going to be a little bumpy for the next couple of weeks, but we’ll get through this together :).

BUT, this is not a post about me. This is about one of my new favorite restaurants. If you know me, you know how much I love love love (when it comes to food): my mom’s food, latin american cuisine, spanish cuisine, tacos without the shell, mediterranean cuisine, sushi, hibachi, and trashy $8 dinner specials american-chinese take out. Even if you didn’t know me, now you do. You’re welcome.

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Just checkin’ out the district of columbia

So, I was super excited to come across this cute gem, La Tasca. My friend had come in from Kansas to visit yours truly, so we ate a lot, we drank a lot, and we watched TV a lot. La Tasca was one of 2 notable places that I decided to blog about.

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This place was paaaaacked during the Stanley Cup. Go Caps! Had a bit of FOMO even though I don’t even watch hockey.

When we went, it was pretty empty. We also went after the lunch rush in the middle of the week. People started pouring in towards happy hour though. The waitress was a delight. I like how she actually was from Spain. The other waitress who served our food was from Colombia. Not sure why, but I enjoy when a restaurant (either by coincidence or intention) employs people from the cuisine location.

My friend and I used the lunch menu and decided to split two tapas and a paella, in addition to getting two sangrias.

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She’s boooorrriinngg, so she got a dry red sangria. Not that people who get dry red sangrias are boring, she just happened to not want to try anything new, even though I suggested lots of other flavors. My personal fave is the cava sangria, because your girl loves prosecco. I’m not the biggest fan of blueberries, but I love all fruits when they’re in wine. Next time, I’m getting the Mango Blackberry, because does that not sound amazing???

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For our tapas, we got the Bistec, cooked medium or medium well. The “fries” were two potato wedges (I only like french fries when they’re in the form of super crispy and tater tots and chips). And a spicy sauce. The Haitian in me loves spicy, but I let out a couple of coughs upon the first taste. It really had a kick.Ask me about the time I thought I was a daredevil and ate a spoon of Habanero sauce in Mexico. Wow.

The steak was amazing too. I was eating it slowly to savor the taste, and she asked if I was going to finish it! So rude.

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The other tapa was the Albodigas, the lamb meatballs. I love lamb. I prefer it ground, but a good seared lamb shank with a green harissa spot will hit the spot 10 out of 10 times. The meatballs were cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with some goat cheese. The meatballs were the melt-in-your-mouth variety and at that point in time, life was gooood.

We didn’t get the Calamares… which I really wanted. I love calamari. But my friend does not like the idea of breaded fried squid. I just let out a deep sigh. Next time I’m taking my mother, because she LOVES calamari.

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Lastly, we got the vegetarian paella. The paella was my favorite, by far. Came in a cast iron pan and the lunch size was enough to feed the two of us (along with the other tapas).

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I got sooooo hungry while writing this post

I’m never sure how to best describe paella except that when I was in Spain, that was primarily all I ate. It’s like having a taste of wonderful in your mouth. And La Tasca’s paella was no different. I love a good rice. The perfect amounts of moist and sticky but not soggy. Maybe it’s the saffron that I truly enjoy. No kidding, this has been the best paella I’ve had outside of Spain. I loved it so much, I called my parents and told them that we need to go the location by us, in Rockville. My dad is not a fan of Spanish dishes or latin-american cuisine, but he LOVES a good paella. So I hope he will enjoy it as much as I did.

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happy member of the clean plate club

Towards the end of the summer, I’m taking my mom to the paella making class La Tasca offers, and I am pumped. So definitely stay tuned.

Bakersfield

Tacos. Tequila. Whiskey.

Cinco de Mayo.

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We actually were able to see somebody take shots after shots on the luge. $3 shots were dope.

I love tacos. And I love tequila. And I love them both at the same time. Who doesn’t? I also love any excuse to drink shamelessly. Finals were over and I just cannot pass up watching white people wear sombreros and use bad Mexican accents.

Quick history lesson: Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla during the American Civil War. That’s really all I know. I don’t even know what really happened during the American Civil War. Our education system needs to do better and my brain needs to remember and retain more information.

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Anyways. I get the same exact thing every time I come to Bakersfield: carne tacos and baja shrimp tacos. I honestly recommend the baja shrimp. Crispy shrimp, avocado, chipotle lime cream, and some cole slaw. I just have this habit of ordering 2-3 of the shrimp (and the carne) and just eating the fillings out of the tacos.

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I should just start asking for the taco without the taco shell… But I already am extra for ordering burgers with the bun on the side, just for the picture aesthetics.

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Oh, and the pineapple margarita. Pitcher every time.

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I know what I want. I know what I like. And I stick with it.

Honestly, I’m surprised that I even got some good pictures from this day. Started day drinking only to end at Bakersfield. And then woke up right at midnight, confused as heck. But survived. The two friends I went with… We were all struggling. BUT Your girl is officially in her third year of law school!!!

As per always, stay tuned for more posts. It’ll be a Cleveland hiatus, while I explore Baltimore and D.C. For any of my DMV friends or visitors, let me know some of your favorite places so that I can check them out!

Izakaya by Sushi and Robata

This was my first stop in London. After the most stressful traveling 12 hours–stranded on the runway due to bad weather and waiting almost 2 hours in the immigration line to enter–I finally got to London.

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So, my international plan did NOT kick in, so when I first landed, I was confined to only the wifi. Which was shitty as hell. And then trying to figure out the Tube to get to my sister. And then trying to get to her. And then my parents were like “So, listen, you only have $175 for the week.” HAHAHAHAHA. Surpassed that day 3 into London. They were wild.

And then when I finally got to my sister, she told me that she had to take the Tube to go to a group meeting. So after napping for 3 hours, I ventured with her. We went into Whole Foods, where I had my pick of restaurants. I was feeling some raw fish, so the cute, expensive-looking Sushi restaurant ran by French men was obviously where I had to go. Partly because I really wanted sushi. Partly because my parents told me not spend money.

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Eating alone alone (so not doing any work while eating) is not a new thing for me in general, but I have not eaten alone since… freshman year college? So… 6 years ago? Sometimes I would eat alone and do some homework or catch up on emails. But I haven’t sat down and been conscious of my surroundings while eating alone. So this was a first, and it was pleasant.

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The aesthetic was pretty adorable. I loved the cherry blossoms paired with the more “modern” look of the place. I learned that “Izakaya” is a term for a Japanese pub, so I’m guessing that a traditional Sushi and Robata is more formal and less… izakaya-y.

To conserve my parents’ money, I decided to be kind and get the 2 courses for 15 pounds. My math is horrible and the conversion rates change, so I won’t even begin to figure out how many American dollars I spent.

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I got the dragon roll. It wasn’t on the actual menu, but it was on the pick-2 menu. It was… avocado, cucumber, topped with salmon. That’s really all I was able to get from that. It was a little spicy and very refreshing. Normally, I like my sushi with tempura flakes for a little bit of crunch and texture, but my paleo-ish self is opting out of tempura for the time being.

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I also got some spicy beef dumplings. Usually, I get them gyoza style, so this was the first time having an open top dumpling, and I really enjoyed it. Yes, dumplings made out of wheat. Yes, I’m supposed to be paleo-ish. Oh well.

I did learn how to use chopsticks better, so that was exciting. I always just used to eat sushi with my fingers, but your girl is learning! One day, I’ll be able to flip omelettes with chopsticks. Probably not, but we will see.

A friend told me a story about how one of her friends only posts pictures of empty plates. And I like that concept. An empty plate is a happy stomach. So watch for those end-of-post pictures with my empty plates.

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London, United Kingdom

Finals are over. Not only did I survive another year of law school, I also survived a year of my bioethics masters program. So to treat myself, I obviously had to travel.

I’m very much a beachy person. First choice definitely is somewhere in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. But beach town was just not in my finances. Want to know what was though? Crashing with my sister and her 2 roommates* in a one bedroom for a week while she was studying abroad in London.

Sad thing was? Sis was in the midst of finals. So, you’re going to get a lot of mediocre quality pics of everything except for me. Too bad I didn’t bring a selfie sick. Too bad I also didn’t trust people to take picturesque pictures of me. I miss my Cleveland food crew taking the greatest pics.

Anyways! I spent my first two days in London just sleeping. I was exhausted from finals and jet lagged. But once I started getting up, that’s when the exploring came in.

I really didn’t care much for exploring London places and sightseeing. I’m not a huge UK history person. I enjoy Italian, French, Spanish, and Greek history though… And Catholic history. I just wanted to walk around, find food places, drink craft beers and ciders, and chill, chill, chill. What I didn’t do? Drink lots of craft ciders.

So you’re going to get lots of food pictures and lots of random pics from around London.

33 walking miles over the course of 5 days. Enjoy! Every Tuesday, I’ll add greater details and photos for each location in a separate post. So stay tuned! And don’t worry… I’ll keep you updated every week.

Izakaya by Sushi and Robata:

Cute and quaint Japanese pub located right above the Whole Foods in Kensington. Sushi was great, but the dumplings were phenomenal. Really wish I had more of the dumplings. Only regret? Not getting a signature cocktail and some dessert.

Leon:

I could probably be vegan if I lived in London, at least in Central London. I wasn’t planning on being vegan in London, but I did try to be vegan as often as I could. Most places had sustainable vegan options, and for that, I applaud them. But Leon caught my eye, so I decided to give it a try. The meatless meatballs? Very good. Although, I think I’m slightly allergic to eggplants.

Pizza Union:

So my sister said that London is not good for pizza. I’m inclined to believe her. I didn’t hate Pizza Union, I actually enjoyed it. The gluten-free dough sucked, but I’m glad they had the option. The goat cheese and tomato combo was great, as per usual. And sprinkled the pizza with spicy oil and basil, which did give it some flavor.

The raspberry mojito though? Great. Too bad it wasn’t on the rocks instead of frozen.

Borough Market:

My sister said to check out this place. And I loved it. I LOVE markets. This reminds me of the West Side Market in Ohio City, Ohio. Lots of vendors setting up shop to sell you their goodies. It’s a farmer’s market… but cooler? More urban, if that makes sense. Honestly, if I lived in the area, I would probably come here at least once a week, even if just to grab some of the street vendor foods.

Fish!:

Okay, so, they had a sign outside saying that they won several awards for best restaurants. Obviously, I HAD to try it, for the blog of course. Stupid me confused the street vendor for the restaurant. The vendor (still part of Fish!) sells actual fish and chips. The restaurant serves higher end plates. I tried out a new dish: deviled whitebait, and I am a fan.

London Bridge:

I didn’t take the history tour or lesson, so enjoy the pictures. Also… didn’t realize the River Thames was so mucky. Shoutout to the two girls who saw me struggling with my selfie and decided to take a picture of me. That was the first day (of the rest of the week, ugh) I experienced the London cloudy and rainy temperature.

Tossed:

Like I said: Easy to be vegan here. I love the “technology” aspect of it. You place your order at one of the iPads, then you wait to pick it up. Took like 5 minutes. It’s like a salad place, but better. I would actually eat at Tossed at least once a week. Move over Chipotle.

I actually really want a Leon and Tossed near me…

Covent Garden:

All the high end restaurants and stores all located within walking distance? Thank goodness I’m personally broke and had no space because your girl would have been STRESS buying EVERYTHING. #TreatYoSelf #SelfCare. Ended up going to grab a late lunch at a burger joint and a speakeasy-esque basement lounge where happy hour is from noon to 9pm. Didn’t take pics. Sorry.

Honest Burgers:

A burger place is a burger place is a burger place. The rosemary “chips” were great though.

Dirty Martini:

Who doesn’t like all day happy hour, £10 bottles of wine, and half-priced martinis? By the way, the hibiscus martini? Amazing. Sorry for crappy photos. My phone did not like the dark lighting? I just really enjoy the picture of me…

Dishoom:

By far, my favorite (and priciest hahaha) restaurant in London. Always packed–I’m honestly surprised I was able to find an open spot without a reservation during peak lunch hours. The food was meant to be shared, but the person who I went with wanted to get his own plates instead of ordering a lot and splitting it. Regardless, my food was bomb. And kachumber is now probably my new favorite side.

Overall, London, you’ll be missed. But also, not really. Managed to get a sinus infection and an upper respiratory infection. BUT I’ll catch ya when another one of my friends are staying in London. Maybe next time, I’ll check out more of the nightlife.

Oh, I also got lost in London. Took a bus to Shoreditch, ended up napping, ended up in Zone 6 of London. Woke up confused as heck. Since the buses don’t loop, I had to get out and find the next bus stop. Then I had to trek all the way back to Shoreditch, only to be severely underwhelmed when getting off the bus in Shoreditch. So just walked the 2 miles back to my sister’s and drank some cider and went to sleep.

Tired of the food? Feel free to check out my other random pics of London:

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As they say (or do they say?): Cheerio xx.

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*These roommates were the coolest people EVER. They also asked me to talk about them. But they legitimately were some of the chillest people, especially because they let me stay in their one bedroom, me sleeping on their floor, for a whole ass week. That’s cool.

Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute

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I have heard so many good things about this place, from the quality of food to the personable service, but what really piqued my interest was the social responsibility that surrounds Edwins. Edwins incorporates ex-convicts into its non-profit business model.

Built on the mindset that everybody deserves a second chance, Edwins takes it upon itself to teach these ex-cons, these human beings, how to gain employable skills and reintegrate into their communities. Edwins opened in November of 2013, and since has graduated almost 500 students. In addition to teaching them, Edwins also helps their students in basic medical care, clothing, legal services, employment searches, job coaching, and literacy. Yearly, 95% of the students find employment after graduation, and only 1.3% go back to jail. Now how about those amazing numbers? *cough this is why TEACHING and REHABILITATION is IMPORTANT when you’re going to incarcerate somebody instead of subjecting them to slave labor but ok cough*

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Anyways… I also did want to come to Edwins to actually try the food. Honestly, I was sold on the restaurant when I received 10 compliments from different people, both staff and customers within minutes.

I was shocked at how packed Edwins was. Every table, even though it is a small restaurant, was full. And once a party got up to leave, another party was seated within minutes. The atmosphere was dressed up but still relaxed, and I enjoyed that. My young blogger self felt out of place taking pictures of everything, since the demographic was older, business/professional people, but oh well.

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We spent probably way too long trying to pick out a wine, only to end up with a bright and clear wine from the mountain regions of France. I went in wanting to get the sea scallops (hence the choice of a white), but the burger was calling out my name a million times. And since I am now paleo-ish instead of seagan-ish (even though I do try to not eat meat on Fridays), I decided to opt for the burger (Le Burger), mainly for the theatrics of it. The burger and sauce is prepared table side.

Our burger prep person was named Richard. Richard is from Cleveland and he, like all the other staff members, is an ex-con who just wants to be better and give back. Richard will graduate in June and is deciding on which cruise ship he wants to accept an offer from. His childhood dream was to travel the world, and especially visit France, and now he will get to do that, as a chef aboard a cruise ship. Hey mom, let’s do all the cruises to see if we can find him, okay? Since Edwins does pride itself on teaching their students, I did ask questions about the history of the Diane sauce and the preparing techniques, and Richard went above and beyond answering the question. It was more than a simple memorization, but an actual application and comparing it to other techniques.

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My food crew got the Confit de Canard (salted duck leg with mushroom risotto) and boy, was it actually salty. And the Saumon en Croute de Raitfort (salmon encrusted with horseradish and a cucumbers and cream sauce). Now, the white we picked out paired amazingly with the salmon and fresh cucumber sauce.

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We wanted to get dessert, but we were just so full. So, obviously, next time, I’ll have my dinner and my dessert too. They also prepare the Banana Foster table side.

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What’s your social impact?

Brewnuts

Woke up and it was raining. Now if you know me, if I can even sniff the faint scent of impending rain, I will cancel all of my plans.  I’ll fake sick. I’ll actually be productive with cleaning or doing homework. I’ll even blame it on the dog, “Oh, Chessie is needy, sorry.” But, honestly, if I don’t have to drive, then I care less. I did wake up, staring at my phone, “If Celena texts me within 10 minutes, I’ll get up and go to Brewnuts,” I said from the comforts of my thick and heavy comforter, having no present intention to move. Lo and behold, 9 minutes later, I get the glorious text from Celena. So off we adventured…

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i havent evolved from the awkward kindergarten poses sorry

Enter Brewnuts, love child of two Clevelanders who apparently loved doughnuts (seriously… is it donuts or doughnuts?) and decided to infuse craft beer into their baked goodies. 100% here for it. I have not been to this area of Cleveland, but I always did want to try out the infamous Brewnuts. If you know me, I’m not really a beer or doughnut fan, but the combination of the two just sounds almost too good to pass up. Ask me about the time I went to the Urban Winery with their wine doughnut holes. I’ll even buy you a drink at the Winery while I tell you about it. Very Meta, right?

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Hibiscus Limade was 10/10

Now, I really should have gotten the Dark Chocolate Coffee and Strawberry… but I realized I can’t do the “-egan” lifestyle anymore, unless there is a “not” right in front of it. So I’m back to Paleo-ish. Yes, -ish. I make exceptions for speciality items… like beer infused doughnuts. Check back Lent 2018, I’ll be back on my Seagan/maybe plant based Vegan lifestyle.

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#NiceForWhat You’re welcome, Drake

But first, we had to get the mood started. Who doesn’t love Drake’s “Nice for What?” Popped in that dollar and got to play Drake AND Nicki’s “Barbie Tingz” all at 9:45 in the morning. It’s never too early to jam out while drinking a beer. Maybe except in the Bible belt… Eh.

What I did get though… Key Lime Pie Filled and the Hibiscus Limade. Celena and Sam got the Reeses Puffs with Nutella and the Coff Toff.

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the pink: hibiscus limade
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cuckoo for coc… wait, reeses puffs!

Sometimes I wish I was a chocolate person, but I prefer floral and fruity, but not too sweet. The Hibiscus Limade was PERFECT. Not too sweet but still full of flavor. The Key Lime was great for the first bite, but all of that sugar… Of course, I was full within 3 bites. I’m not a sugar person, but I can shamelessly eat a bag of kettle cooked salt and vinegar chips with popcorn without ever getting full. Now, what would be great, are craft doughnut holes. Then I can try 5-6 different flavors before my sugar migraine kicks in.

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eye donut see you, ha ha ha.

I really only bought two doughnuts just to take this picture. That’s really it. I still have my other doughnut sitting right next to me as I’m writing this post. Saving it for my post-thesis breakfast. Yes, because my thesis will be done in the morning. I hope this sugar rush will get me through the remaining pages I have left. Oh, didn’t snap a pic, but I was drinking the Rose Ale Cidergeist. It is now my new favorite beer/cider of choice. It was a “Bubbles-Mosa” so just the beer with some orange juice. Nothing special. But still great.

Until next time! If you have any suggestions on where I should venture next, let me know.

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#donut mess wi… get it, get it?