In Tough Times, Maine Priest Works Wonders With Spam and Spuds

Vincentian Father Anthony Kuzia wins $1,000 for a recipe using simple ingredients commonly found in food banks.

Vehicles wait in line to receive groceries during a holiday mobile food distribution from the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank on Dec. 22, 2020, in Inglewood, California. The food bank has distributed 145 million pounds of food since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Vehicles wait in line to receive groceries during a holiday mobile food distribution from the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank on Dec. 22, 2020, in Inglewood, California. The food bank has distributed 145 million pounds of food since the COVID-19 pandemic started. (photo: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images)

Father Anthony Kuzia, pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes parish in Oquossoc, Maine, recently won a recipe contest sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Portland. As a result, he has become something of a local cooking celebrity.

“Catholic Charities of Maine holds the St. Hildegard recipe contest every year,” said Father Kuzia. “Each year, they ask for a recipe that can be made from ingredients that would be found on the shelves of a food pantry.” Father Kuzia went on to say that he had been a pastor in two parishes in New Hampshire. Both had food pantries. Frequently, the pantries would get a large donation of a single item, like canned evaporated milk. “We would often supply recipes so that those who came to the food pantry would have some ideas on how to use the ingredients. The St. Hildegard contest does the same thing for the food pantries in Maine.”

This is the second year that Father Kuzia has entered a recipe. Last year he contributed a corn chowder recipe for the contest with the theme that was “One Pot Wonders.”

“I encouraged all of the parishioners to enter recipes. Last year, someone from the parish came in the top five,” he said.

This year the theme of the St. Hildegard Recipe Contest was “The Amazing Potato.” Father Kuzia called his recipe submission “Spam and Potato Bake.”

“This is really an Irish recipe that called for Irish bacon and cream,” he said. “I changed some of the ingredients to reflect what could be found in a typical food pantry. Lo and behold, my recipe was number one!” 

Father Kuzia said that the top prize is $1000 to be donated to the food pantry of the winner’s choice. “That money goes a long way to help with food insecurity,” he said.

A native of Connecticut, Father Kuzia went to Catholic grammar school in Ansonia. He attended St. John Kanty Preparatory School in Erie, Pennsylvania. He then completed two years of study at a Vincentian Seminary, St. Joseph College, in Princeton, New Jersey. From there, he continued his seminary studies at Niagara University, graduating in 1972. Father Kuzia completed his theological studies and was ordained May 29, 1976, at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pennsylvania.

When explaining why he became a priest, Father Kuzia said, “The parish I grew up in was run by Vincentian priests. One of the priests had great love for the poor and helped them without any fanfare. If he noted someone needed something, he just did it. He had a large heart.”

Later, another parish priest asked him if he ever thought about entering the priesthood, but the young man initially turned down the idea. “I did not think of myself as being holy,” he said, “but the priest’s compassion was something I really admired.”

After serving in several parishes in Connecticut, he moved to Lisbon, Maine, in 1996. Father Kuzia’s religious community was asked by the Bishop of Portland, Maine, to help in the consolidation of the three small parishes in the town of Lisbon. The parishes were successfully combined and a new church was built. “Bringing people together was a challenge, but it was a wonderful experience to be able to work with the dedicated lay people of the parish.”

In 2019, Father returned to Maine. Currently, he serves Our Lady of the Lakes parish. The parish is located in a very rural area in the mountains of western Maine.


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Spam and Potato Bake (Father Kuzia’s prize-winning recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1⁄4 cup butter or margarine
  • One 12-ounce can low-sodium Spam, sliced and cut into strips
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 potatoes, boiled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 4 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Melt half the butter in a pan and fry the sliced Spam until it begins to brown. 
  3. Remove from the pan and fry the onion until cooked. 
  4. Cut the cooked potatoes into wedges and arrange in a one-quart baking dish with the chopped onion and Spam.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle in the parsley flakes.
  6. Pour in the evaporated milk and cover with the grated cheese.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
Father Anthony Kuzia
Father Anthony Kuzia
Edward Reginald Frampton, “The Voyage of St. Brendan,” 1908, Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin.

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