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What’s on the menu?

No year is a good one to bring up politics or religion at the Thanksgiving table, but this year it might be even more important to have some safe topics for discussion.

When I asked my newsroom for ideas, I was surprised how much debate there is about the appropriate food for the occasion.

Maybe it shows how similar the meals have been my whole life that I had no idea there is a turkey-versus-ham question.

In my mind there is no question. Turkey. The only ham should be in the form of a flavoring agent for the dried beans. (Also known as leather britches).

Side note — don’t walk out into your office and ask if anyone has ever eaten leather britches. The smartmouth comments will go on for a while.

Having said that, we do sometimes have another meat at the table, but it never outshines the turkey. Sometimes it is deer, sometimes it is smoked trout … still, never ham. Ham is for Christmas.

Then there’s the matter of whether you cook your stuffing inside the turkey, or serve dressing prepared outside the bird. And either way, does it have oysters in it?

How many marshmallows do you pile on top of your yams and still pretend it counts as a vegetable on your plate?

Do you have cranberry sauce? Is it fresh and homemade or out of a can with the lines still visible on the gelatinous cylinder?

Cornbread? Rolls? Biscuits? … no bread at all?

Here’s one that is a conundrum, even in my family: What do you have for dessert? Pumpkin pie purists don’t tolerate even a move toward pumpkin cheesecake. But what about sweet potato pie, pecan pie … or, even waaay out on a limb “fruit pizza.” Yeah, we brought fruit pizza into the fold several years ago, and my aunt loved it, so it stayed.

Do you serve some variation on ambrosia, or other Jell-O-based dessert?

If your menu is not as set in stone as some families’ are, and you’re feeling adventurous this year, today’s edition includes the 65th Annual Cookbook, complete with flashback recipes in case you want to try an award-winner from each decade.

Oh, and speaking of Thanksgiving traditions, here’s another question: When do you start your Christmas shopping?

Some people gather with their families after the meal to flip through the newspaper’s advertising inserts as they map out their late-Thanksgiving/early Black Friday shopping. It can take on a bit of a situation room feel.

But what do you think? Are you a fan of stores open on Thanksgiving? Do you enjoy getting up for sales that start at the crack of midnight, and prepping for a full day of Black Friday madness?

Will you root for the Bears or Lions? Bills or Cowboys? Falcons or Saints? Do you even still watch the NFL?

Wait! Scrap that last one. I’m giving you discussion points that steer clear of politics.

No matter the topic of debate, remember to talk about the many things for which we can be grateful. That is the point of the holiday, after all. If you are among those of us grateful to be able to gather with friends and family at an overflowing table before heading to a comfortable living room to watch football, don’t forget about those who will not be spending the day in such a manner.

I have seen a few of my social media acquaintances announce that their homes will be open to those who might otherwise be spending Thanksgiving by themselves and struggling. Not everyone can make such an offer of course, but it is worth considering whether there is someone at your church or in your neighborhood to which you could offer a spot at your table.

Even if we grumble once in a while and forget how much we have truly been blessed; even if some of the topics over which we seem to want to divide ourselves can seem overwhelming, Thanksgiving reminds us what is important.

Turkey or ham, stuffing or dressing, pumpkin pie or fruit pizza, I hope you all have a wonderful day, and that you take just a second to whisper “Thank you.”

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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