A Grandson Reminisces About Sunday Dinner at Granny Denny's

by David A. Wooddell, Sr., (grandson of John Denny, Sr., and Anna (Pidgeon)Denny)

"John A. Denny Sr., with grandchildren Anne and David Wooddell, Sr., age 5
(who closes his eyes to savor the moment abt 1956)"

Granny (Anna Pidgeon) Denny abt 1975

John Denny Sr. and Grandson "supervise"
Sunday dinner in the making on the old wood stove abt 1956

Sunday mornings were always special at Granny Denny's. When my father, MSGT/USAF L.H. Wooddell, Jr., was stationed on "isolated" assignments (we could not accompany him), we always went "home" to Schenectady, New York, and stayed with my grandparents John A. Denny, Sr., and Anna (Pidgeon) Denny. These assignment's seemed to happen every couple or three years as I was growing up, and were a year or two in duration. Even after he retired, his first out of service job was overseas

Thus, I was blessed that this time when we didn't have my father around, we were at "Granny and Papa's". Growing up, the only thing I ever anticipated anywhere near as much as Sundays, was opening day of trout season. (If April 1st fell on a Sunday, I would be sure to be back early.) You see, every Sunday, Granny fixed her specialty, spaghetti and meatballs! To be accurate, we also had rigatoni (which I liked best and called "stove pipes"), shells, cavatelli, and other pastas, as well as Italian sausage and a beef brascioli (pronounced bra-zhall) which was sort of a "roast tied up in string". Papa liked that part.

Sunday began with breakfast, usually something fast and simple, as more important events were underway. While we had breakfast, Granny started the sauce, and made the meatballs, all from "scratch". Mom and I would go off to church at Cobblestone Reformed Church, on Princetown Road. While we were gone the sauce cooked slowly, and my anticipation built. After church, just as we pulled in the driveway, Granny would put the pasta in the boiling water to cook while we changed clothes.

Then we would go into the kitchen and help her set the table. Often on Sunday, my Aunt Phil (or my Uncle Norman) would bring my cousins over to eat too. If so, we all waited till everyone arrived, and called Papa to the table. It was a true, old fashioned family dinner. I know no one looked forward to it as much as I did unless it was my little brother. It was a true "gourmet quality" event.

We "pigged out" to use a contemporary term. Granny's macaroni was fantastic even left over (she cooked for an army I thought). I even liked it cold for breakfast, since I "couldn't wait" for it to be warmed up. It was sooo good. When I was grown, and lived "at home" after I moved back to open my first taxidermy business, and found myself a single father before I married Brenda, Granny tried to teach me how to make meatballs and sauce.

That should have been the subject for a videotape, if we only had them back in 1976. You see, I've forgotten most of it. My mother has tried even with her recipe to duplicate her mother's sauce and meatballs, and sometimes comes very close. My brother and I know it will be next to impossible to duplicate. Obviously, I am "spoiled" for once you have had the best, everything else is "something less".

I am embarking on a "quest" to try and make Granny's, sauce and meatballs. I have actually even thought about involving "Crossing Over" host John Edwards. I had a dream that I was on his show, and could speak to one person, for one event. That event was fixing Sunday dinner with my Granny.

I am what you would call a "spaghetti conniseur". I know what "good" is. I have never had pasta at any restaraunt anywhere, that could compare. Okay some credit is due here. My Mom does make very good sauce. Just not quite as good, bless her heart. My son's mother-in-law is an excellent cook also. There was a place we ate at in Reno, NV in 1991 called "Two Brothers from Italy" or something that was pretty good. I even summoned one of them to personally tell him it was the best Italian restaraunt food I'd ever had, but not as good as my grandmother's. Olive Garden and other "chain" restaraunts, and even all of the smaller Italian places, just don't measure up. If by a miracle, I ever duplicate her cooking, and decide to go into the restaraunt business, they are all in trouble.

So someday, when I do pass from this earth, and move on to the hereafter, I won't fear it, or dread it. I have lived a good life. I have helped and been kind to those in need. I have been privileged to see and do many very special things. My wife and I have raised a great family we are very proud of. I have achieved my moment in the spotlight, and when the time comes, I'm ready to go. You see, there with all my loved ones we all hope to see again someday, is a grandmother who knows I'm coming, and when I get there, I'll have a dinner of her rigatoni and meatballs, with Italian sausage. That is when I will indeed know, I have gone to Heaven, for nothing on Earth, even comes close!

Written January 14, 2002 by David A. Wooddell, Sr.


  1. Under notes about Anna, I have stated that she made the finest pasta and meatballs ever to grace a dinner table. If this offends anyone, I am sorry. It is a simple statement of fact, and not a boast about my Grandmothers cooking. Should anyone feel this statement is inacurate, you are mistaken.


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