It’s not Thanksgiving dinner without sauerkraut

What do you hope for in a Thanksgiving dinner? Turkey is essential, along with dressing and those yummy mashed potatoes. And, of course, I’ll be looking for that jellied cranberry sauce and a basket of rolls.

If we’re at my parents’ house, I will be snagging a scoop of my mother’s onion and carrot casserole and a spoonful of mashed rutabaga—a nod to my New England grandparents’ roots. But I certainly don’t expect to find those on everyone’s Thanksgiving spread.

If we’re in Baltimore, though, I am fairly confident I’ll find sauerkraut. A Thanksgiving dinner just isn’t complete without it.

There’s something about the tart saltiness of sauerkraut that adds just the right touch to a plate of food on Turkey Day. It delicately balances the other flavors and brings its own unique texture to the meal. Nothing competes with that stringy pickled cabbage that mixes in with the sea of gravy and potatoes and other fare.

Is it a little out of place? Perhaps. Yet, somehow that’s part of the appeal—just like the uncle with the distinctive laugh or the cousin who arrives late with nothing to contribute to the meal but always has the best stories. You’re not expecting it to go so well with the feast, and then you find out that it’s a true highlight. Sauerkraut at Thanksgiving adds that extra something you didn’t even know you were missing.

Now, I don’t have any preference for how the sauerkraut is cooked. I know some people cook meat in it, and I even heard of someone adding mayo. I’m trying to be open-minded and consider that mayo-infused sauerkraut might be one of the wonders of the world. But I’ll just take my sauerkraut in its plain, pure, magnificent state, if I may.

So, thanks for having me for dinner. Yes, you can send the gravy down this way. And please pass the sauerkraut.

What’s that? You didn’t make any?

Oh.

Well, then.

No worries. That’s just fine.

I’ll just have extra room for pumpkin pie. After all, sweet, delectable pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top is truly a sign of God’s love for us.

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.