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(by Katie Kirwan)

I’ve always had an appetite. An appetite for life, people, and food. As a child you could find me sneaking donuts, climbing in cupboards, or at a neighbor’s house having my second breakfast on the way to school. It wasn’t that my mother didn’t feed us enough because we always had plenty. I think some people are insatiable, and it motivated me to keep searching, searching for that perfect bite, that moment of bliss. As a chef, I am treated to many amazing culinary moments, but they still have a way of making me want more.

My mother is a great cook, but during my adolescence, she fell victim to the casserole craze and hopped right on that Betty Crocker bandwagon. I don't blame her for taking shortcuts. She had three small kids, a full-time nursing job, and a hungry husband to feed. She put a homemade dinner on the table almost every night of the week. Some meals were more successful than others. I still remember the tuna fish crepes she worked especially hard to make. I can see her flipping each crepe. I can hear the sound of canned tuna fish being mixed with cream of chicken soup, and I'm transported back to the bathroom where I was forced to relive the meal a second time. But with one flop came many successes. And my mother’s culinary triumph is her Kielbasa Casserole.