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Almost since the day it set up shop in a garage, Google has been known as one of the world's best places to work -- if you could get your foot in the door. Crazy-free perks were the reward for graduates of elite schools who had high grade-point averages and who could endure the company's grueling interview process. The perks remain, but as Google (GOOG) has grown, it has gotten more realistic about recruiting -- and kinder about tolerating underperformers. As of last year, the company began recruiting at such nonpedigreed institutions as Texas A&M and the State University of New York at Buffalo; interview sessions that often involved as many as 12 screenings now average between four and five. In an exclusive interview with Fortune, Larry Page, Google's original CEO, who reassumed the position a year ago, speaks with obvious pride about the "family" environment Google tries to encourage, how it differs from his own grandfather's workplace, and how free food encourages people to eat less. And while he doesn't rule out charging for those meals one day, don't count on its happening anytime soon.