By Linda Bassett
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The kids’ table is a staple of family holiday dinners. Everyone has opinions or memories. But why does it exist? Is it so that brothers, sisters and cousins can have fun? Or so parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles can linger over dinner? Do families who sit children separately believe it’s giving them freedom, or do they hope that the older ones will set a good example for younger ones? Or do some families use a communal table as an occasion to practice good table manners? Does a place open up right out of the high chair or in first grade? And when is the invitation extended to join the grown-ups — in their teens, or the first semester of college?

When my grandparents presided, everyone sat at the same table. I don’t know if that’s because they never heard of a kids table or their table could accommodate everyone. Kids were granted the privilege — only on holidays — to choose what we liked from the passed platters and bowls. It was OK to ignore the green bean casserole or creamed spinach. If we liked gallons of gravy on our turkey or piles of mashed potatoes, it was OK to take seconds or thirds.

Finished eating in a flash, we tried to sit quietly, so we wouldn’t miss dessert. The adults always took too long on their feast. So we made faces at each other across the table, and wiggled in our chairs just enough to be excused, but not punished, until the sweets arrived.

The next generation tried a variation of that tradition. Some adults sat at the table helping the kids eat first. As soon as we were done, we were dismissed to another room, in plain sight, to play games. That put an end to fuss and whining.

And now, we’re in command. For years, we set up a kiddie table, three steps away from ours. We ignored bubbles in the cider, puddles of gravy and mashed potatoes flicked across the table. One year, I taught the little ones to hang spoons on their noses. Every so often, one of us would check in, just as a matter of safety. And so it went until the year my cousin and my brother, enticed by the laughter, picked up their plates and bolted across the room. Soon, no one wanted to sit at the grown-up table. The kids table was more fun.

So we’ve gone back in time to my grandparents’ custom, a little louder, livelier; a little messier.

OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES
Makes about 35 2-inch cookies
Sometimes you just can’t talk a kid into pie. So here’s an autumn-y cookie to have on hand this week. Freeze any leftovers in an airtight container to pull out one or two at a time for a treat.
1-1/2 cups raisins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 stick butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2-1/2 cups corn syrup
2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups rolled oats
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray several baking sheets with nonstick spray. Put the raisins and enough hot water to cover into a medium bowl; set aside.
2. Stir together the dry ingredients — flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3. Separately, beat together the butter, both sugars in a large bowl until light and smooth, about a minute. Now add the egg, egg yolk, corn syrup and vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture, beating until well-mixed and fluffy, 2 minutes.
4. Blend in the flour mixture (dry ingredients). Drain the raisins; stir them and the oats into the dough distributing evenly.
5. Use a tablespoon measure as a scoop to take out heaping portions of the dough and drop it, about 2-1/2 inches apart, onto baking sheet.
6. Bake, one sheet pan at a time, on the middle shelf of the oven, 12 to 15 minutes, until golden and nearly firm when pressed in the center. Turn the pan halfway through baking.
7. Take the sheet pans out of the oven; cool on a wire rack for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to remove cookies from the pan and transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely

MAPLE GLAZED ROOT VEGETABLES
Makes 6 to 8 servings
If you want to entice the kids to try a vegetable or two, this sweet recipe always comes in handy.
3 pounds root vegetables — parsnips, carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes — peeled, cut in 2-inch cubes
2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Spread vegetables in a single layer on baking sheet/s. Drizzle with oil; toss lightly to coat vegetables. Cook, 20 to 25 minutes, until vegetables are tender and golden. They may be done up to 2 hours ahead to this point.
2. While vegetables roast, melt butter. Whisk in maple syrup, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
3. Take the vegetables out of the oven, drizzle the maple glaze over them and tent with aluminum foil until serving time. Return to the oven for 10 minutes to heat through.
Don’t worry if they char a little around the edges. This only adds a sweeter quality to the flavor. Serve hot.

Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Linda’s blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.