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Prime Time: 'Tis the season for food and family

It's the season for big family meals. Thanksgiving is history, and Christmas just ahead. Some of us have roasted dozens of turkeys, cooked up vats of cranberries and mashed bushels of potatoes.

We have lingered long at the produce counter selecting perfect fruits and veggies. We have kneaded bread to make rolls from our moms' recipes. We've hauled out dishes and silverware and glassware, and we have mused, "Do I need a centerpiece, or will all that food on the table be colorful enough?

We have been holiday makers of the highest order.

The news this year is that many of us have passed the torch to daughters and daughters-in-law. Sons, even.

In a round of email messages a couple of weeks ago, my high school girlfriends (St. Paul Murray, Class of 1954) reported Thanksgiving plans would find them at someone else's table. And while most mentioned what they're bringing to the feast, there was one report of a family gathering that will take place at a location with a water park for the grandkids and a bounteous buffet for the dinner.

The new holiday makers also enter into the joys of honoring a variety of dietary needs. I don't think that my mom ever dealt with allergies and personal preferences that I have so graciously accommodated. I won't identify the people involved because that would not follow my high standards of Thanksgiving appreciation and Christmas kindness. But there was a memorable meal not long ago when I accommodated a vegetarian, a family member who is gluten intolerant, another with a recent diagnosed turkey allergy, and a requirement for organic fruits and vegetables.

Then there was the picky eater. That's a euphemism for a kid who has a diet of six foods, none of which are cranberries, pumpkin pie or turkey gravy. The approved mashed potatoes were OK, but skip the gravy.

But I, saint that I am, adjusted to all needs, and the meal was fine, although I can't tell you at this moment just what we ate.

I am happy to report that this holiday season, the vegetarian has taken up with meat, the picky eater is a few years older and has discovered the joys of any numbers of foods, and there are more and more organic choices available in our grocery stores. My mother, God rest her soul, was the rosette and krumkake maker, and those traditions have fallen by the wayside. But her Christmas cookie recipes live on, and I stir up several batches to share with others at the holiday table. Schwann's and Perkins are up to the task of pie-making; if you hide the box, nobody will be the wiser.

The final challenge is holiday table conversation. That has become more difficult for us since a Republican married into the family. It could well be that our dinner table - and yours, too - is representative of the great chasms of thought that exist in America today. We'll stay away from politics. We'll also avoid sports topics, lest the blame game starts and coaches take it on the chin. But there's always the weather, and the beautiful fall that lasted and lasted. We can share our delight in the weather and our pride in being Minnesotans.

So let us all move ahead to Christmas and gather 'round the table, ever aware of our many blessings -- chief of which is family.