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To relieve the stress of cooking a Thanksgiving meal, and to allow for more quality time to play nice with those you love (and with those in your family you wish would spend the holiday elsewhere), several local companies provide everything from à la carte sides to a fully cooked turkey with all the fixings.
At Cusack Meats, 301 S.W. 12th, owner Al Cusack won’t sell you mashed potatoes or stuffing, but he does offer smoked turkeys, and has since the early 1970s.
“That’s what we do best, and that’s what we stick with,” he says.
Cusack starts smoking in July and turkeys are frozen to meet the demand at Thanksgiving. He has the capacity to smoke 600 turkeys every 24 hours. He sells thousands of them each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We have a lot of corporate accounts, and we ship them all over the nation,” he says.
Cusack’s turkeys are available in a 14-16 pound size, and 20 pounds and up. They are priced from $55 to $75. He provides his customers with thawing and cooking instructions to take the guesswork out of preparing the perfect bird.
“You want to spend Thanksgiving with your family, not standing over a stove cooking a turkey,” he says.
Catering companies also offer linen and decor options. Maggie Howell, owner of Aunt Pitty Pat’s Catering, can bring the food and everything needed to decorate the dinner table. The company has offered holiday fare since it started 35 years ago.
“We are a full-service caterer,” she says. “We can do as little or as much as you’d like. It’s really customized to the client’s needs.”
Howell varies the menu each year. She does not heavily promote the Thanksgiving options. Instead, she relies mostly on word-of-mouth and repeat business. With a staff that often works six days a week throughout the year, Howell wants to keep their additional workload light around the holidays. Orders can average from one or two to about 15 to 20.
“Some years we get lots of interest; other years, one or two,” she says. “It’s hard to predict.”
At The Prairie Gypsies, owner Debbie Leland averages about 40 to 50 orders per year for everything from a full turkey dinner, to just sides or desserts. They have offered to-go Thanksgiving items for 14 years.
“Many of the same people order the smoked turkey year after year,” she says. “We have people who spend hundreds of dollars, and others might spend $60 to $70 because they just need a few quarts of sides.”
In addition to taking advance orders, Leland keeps plenty of sides on hand for people who breeze through at the last minute. She has saved many holidays for procrastinators and those whose plans abruptly changed.
“We try to help people who find themselves in a bind,” she says.
While Howell and Leland have found that customers usually want a traditional meal, they offer unique options for those tired of the standards or just looking to shake things up.
Howell offers variations such as a pomegranate-glazed turkey, a brown-sugar-and-pecan-glazed turkey, and several different hams and sauces.
“We definitely have things that are a little different if people want to get away from traditional,” she says.
Leland gushes over her pork loin stuffed with apricots and bleu cheese. It is available by the serving.
“It’s amazing,” she says. For those looking for some of their favorite restaurant items, Keith Paul, owner of A Good Egg Dining Group, offers his signature rolls at Cheever’s Café by the dozen for holiday ordering. At his Iron Starr Urban Barbeque, customers can order sides like fancy mac and cheese, braised collared greens and corn pudding.
Each company does enough Thanksgiving business to make the venture worthwhile. Leland says there is only one downside.
“It’s always worked out for everybody but me who has to stay up until two or three in the morning,” she says with a laugh.