The Times West Virginian

August 24, 2011

A love of food

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — (Editor’s note: The “My Favorite Recipe” food for September is tailgating food. Send your favorite homemade recipes to Debbie Wilson at

When you’re known for a certain food, you make it for everybody.

That’s how Vonda Pheasant feels.

“Any time we had anything at work (the Fairview Library), my boss wanted me to bring my potato salad,” she said.

And she would.

“I’m known for my potato salad.

“I’ve cooked all my life,” she said. “I think I’m a good cook. Everybody likes what I fix.

“I learned to cook from my mom (Carrie Yost Clelland). She was a good cook. She had six kids, four boys and two girls. So she had to be a good cook.”

Pheasant likes to cook and bake, all that good stuff.

“But I don’t cook as much as I used to. It’s just me and John, so I don’t cook as much, unless we have company.

“I used to can and freeze stuff from the garden. It’s nice to go down to the basement and get a jar of vegetable soup. I don’t put potatoes in the soup, so all I have to do is add meat and potatoes.

“I canned pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce ... everything. But we didn’t put out a garden this year. We’re too old to be doing that,” she said with a laugh.

She and John Pheasant, her second husband, live in a comfortable home high atop Morgan Ridge. Around back are their orchard of apple, pear and peach trees, and grape arbor. Down at the edge of the driveway is their group of bee hives.

She also has a home in Fairview, from her first marriage to Diddy Gump. Her son from that marriage, Tim Gump, will be 51. Her daughter, Nancy Parker, passed away in 2006 at age 48.

They met through John’s son.

“We met, got together and got married,” she said. “That was five years ago.”

She has several cookbooks, but she most frequently turns to those little cookbooks sold by local groups as fundraisers, like “Cooking at the Library I and II” by the Fairview Library.

She even has a few recipes in one: chicken noodle soup, creamy potato soup, baked zucchini squash. She dedicated her recipe for Waldorf Salad to her late daughter.

“I just like these little cookbooks more than the big ones,” she said. “I’ve got so many cookbooks. I don’t use half of them.

“My husband wants me to make the same things all the time. I make him rhubarb cake. It’s easy to make and he likes that.

“I love pasta. Oh, I love pastas. And hot dogs. And hamburgers. I like food period, tell you the truth.

“I like to bake as well as cook. But I’d rather have pie any day over cake. I like any meringue pie. My husband’s always wanting me to make him a rhubarb pie. I put strawberries in with it.

“When I make rhubarb pie, he doesn’t like any thickening in it. But when I make it to take somewhere, I put thickening in it,” she said.

“And he likes blueberry pie. He likes to eat. You see him, you know that.”

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

Email Debra Minor Wilson at