Benita had just taken a position as food manager and dietitian for a high-security Maryland state institution for the criminally insane. Because most of the patients and staff were African Americans, Benita planned her first Thanksgiving menu for them based on her New York African American holiday food traditions: turkey, yams, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and corn bread. Anticipating approval, Benita was astounded when the patients angrily confronted the servers behind the bullet-proof glass demanding, "Where's the sauerkraut?"
What did it mean?
For the inmates, no Thanksgiving meal was complete without sauerkraut. They felt cheated and to calm them, Benita immediately added the pickled cabbage to their trays. She later learned that years earlier, the institution workers, who were daily commuters from Pennsylvania, had introduced sauerkraut as a Thanksgiving side dish. Although they were not necessarily Pennsylvania Germans, they had absorbed and passed on Pennsylvanian German regional food ways, including sauerkraut. Now sauerkraut had become part of the patients' Thanksgiving tradition.