Penny Denny does not find much time for home cooking but she does find time to cook for her church, especially if her recipes can help fund a mission trip to Guatemala.
“Mainly I cook for church functions and family holiday gatherings,” said Denny, 42, of Collinsville. Those big events are infrequent, which suits the hectic schedule of Denny and her family. Despite this challenge, Denny says that she enjoys cooking and food, and that the family eats together three or four nights a week.
Denny has cooked for 20 years of her life, she said, since she married her husband Lewis on Valentine’s Day 20 years ago this February. As one of 10 siblings, Denny did not need to cook until she married.
Her four sisters taught her the fundamentals of cooking throughout the years. She and her sisters still exchange recipes and cooking ideas.
Denny has taught all of her children how to cook but especially cooks with daughter Carrie, 14. “She’s a great cook,” said Denny. “She cooks the best chocolate cake you can imagine.”
One of the first foods Carrie cooked was scrambled eggs, and the dish remains a favorite of hers today. Some of Denny’s favorite dishes to cook are casseroles and breakfast sausage gravies.
When Carrie was around 4 years old, she asked for an Easy Bake Oven, said Denny. Instead, the couple purchased an actual toaster oven and had her “cooking for real,” said Denny.
Denny said she likes cooking because she can “share and make others happy.”
“Simpler dishes” are what Denny said she prefers to cook. She recently began trying to find healthier ways to cook. She likes to use local cookbooks and believes that “having the right tools makes the difference,” she said.
When the Stanleytown Amazing Grace Baptist church needed a fundraiser for its Guatemalan mission trip, Denny and many other church members were called upon to create a cookbook of their compiled recipes. This is the second cookbook fundraiser that the church has done.
The resulting cookbook, which costs $10, took from October to January to complete. Denny submitted 15 recipes for the book, which also is offered in an electronic version. It can be ordered by calling Denny at 647-3474.
The profits from selling the book will pay for 17 members of the church to travel to Guatemala from June 29 through July 6 to serve a rural community called San Juan La Laguna scenically situated along a lake. This will be the third time Denny has gone on the mission trip to Guatemala, a small country to the south of Mexico.
Although Denny says she is not particularly experimental, she tries new ingredients and spices when she has the time. When she returned from Guatemala, she brought back new ideas about food. “The trip got me to like black beans,” she said. “They showed me how to make genuine tacos and tortillas by grounding corn and mixing in water.”
The 70 to 80 degree weather in Guatemala is pleasant and not too hot, says Denny, but the area is extremely poverty stricken. “Really, you go to love on the kids,” Denny said. There were “15 children saved and brought into the truth” last year, said Denny.
Last year, the mission group took on two or three main tasks to accomplish with the local people. Among them was to build a new home for an elderly widow whose previous shelter was a tarpaulin suspended on a wooden beam.
This year, the church plans to build two houses. The group also will bring 200 to 400 pairs of donated used shoes for the locals. Most are for the children, but since many of the adults generally have smaller feet, the shoes work well for them, too, said Denny.
Vacation Bible school activities are also conducted for the children. An after-school feeding program called Happy Tummies was started last year and will continue this year. The church provides continual funds throughout the year and one large lump sum at the time of the trip.
Denny’s husband Lewis and three children, Trevor, 19, Bryce, 16, and Carrie, 14, all went to Guatemala, too. Lewis went to Peru twice for mission trips as well.
Lewis is a fiber optic cable worker whose job has taken the family Chesapeake and Norfolk. When Lewis is not on a call for fiber optic cable work, he and Denny work together as owners of the shop All Around Wire, a retailer for Dish Network and Direct TV.