The Times West Virginian

August 3, 2011

Your basic potato salad

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — You can’t have a cookout without potato salad.

The trouble is, what kind?

Hot potato salad with bacon? Warm sweet potato salad? Potato salad with peas? With green beans? Green chilies? Sour cream?

Sharyn Coffman will have none of that. She likes good old-fashioned basic potato salad.

She’s been making it ever since she and Bob Coffman got married on Valentine’s Day, 1966. She got the recipe from her tried-and-true Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

That’s where she gets most of her recipes, she said.

It’s been used so often it’s literally falling apart. Its pages, frail and yellow with age, are cracking and tearing. The jacket is held together with duct tape.

Throw it away? Never.

Replace it with a newer version? Uh ... no.

It won’t win any beauty contests, but this cookbook has nurtured and fed the Coffman family for more than 45 years.

“Yeah, some of the pages aren’t where they’re supposed to be,” Bob said with a laugh.

Like any good cook, she takes a recipe and adds to it. To this one, she reluctantly added boiled eggs.

“I won’t eat the eggs,” she said. “Bob made me put them in. I’ll take them out.”

She also added pickles.

She grew up on the East Side of Fairmont and met Bob when they were 13 and at church camp.

“Then I never saw him again until college at Fairmont State,” she said. “We started dating and got married on Valentine’s Day.”

They have three children, twins Brian and Chris, and Cindy.

Not all her recipes come from a cookbook though.

“I love cooking chili. It’s my own recipe. I’ve got it in my head, not in that book,” she said. “And hot dog sauce? It’s in my head, too.”

She makes a creamed chicken dish with shredded grilled chicken covered with chicken gravy, peas and carrots, with biscuits.

She also makes her own pizza.

“This is the only kind I make. Every April and October they sell sausage at Cross Roads. All my kids love that sausage. I always get hot sausage.

“I take a pizza mix, a jar of pizza sauce and a couple of patties of the hot sausage, onions, hot peppers and sometimes some hamburger and different kinds of cheeses. And it is good. I made one just last week.”

And whenever she makes one, she calls one of her daughters, who promptly comes hungry to visit the next day.

“I also make lasagna for Christmas Eve,” she said. “I can whip it together in no time.”

Although she likes to cook, she’s not much on baking.

“I’m not into cakes or pies. I’m not a sweets person at all. Bob’s the same way, too.”

Baking is too much like chemistry, she said. Cooking is more personal.

The contest for August is picnic salads. To be featured on the “My Favorite Recipe” page, contact Debbie Wilson at 304-367-2549 or

Email Debra Minor Wilson at