The Times West Virginian

July 4, 2012

Light and fluffy

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Grandmas are probably the world’s best cooks.

Just ask anybody who’s been lucky enough to have eaten their scrumptious cookies, luscious pies, fluffy cakes and wholesome breads.

Like Helen Wagner.

When she wants a cool, light summertime dessert, she turns to the recipes left by her late grandmother, Lana Moore.

Like Lemon Fluff.

Light and creamy and not too sweet, it’s the perfect concoction for your next backyard cook-out or potluck.

“She belonged to the Woman’s Club. They went to different houses and when they came to her house, she’d make Lemon Fluff.

“I always liked it. I thought it was so good.”

What’s not to like about it? It’s easy to make, doesn’t have many ingredients and is light enough to serve on the hottest summer day.

“On a hot day, you don’t want anything heavy,” she said. “And I don’t think it has that many calories.”

A slice or two of Wagner’s graham cracker-banana raisin bread hits the spot.

“I was telling a woman at church about this recipe. She’s anxious to get it,” Wagner said.

She doesn’t like to cook much, she admits right off the bat.

“I’d rather be reading or drawing or doing puzzles.”

She does bake a little, though not as much as she used to. But when she and her son Bill have an attack of the sweet tooth, she’ll whip up some banana bread or something like that.

“My mother made this applesauce cake and real soft raisin cookies at Christmas,” she said.

“I was a homemaker. I never worked that much, really. I was busy raising my family (Bill, Trina, Debra, Janet and Karen).

She’s had some personal sadnesses, but she remains cheerful and upbeat.

“No, there’s not too much that gets me down,” she said. “I live by my faith. If it weren’t for the Lord, I wouldn’t have been able to raise my five children.”

Still, sometimes she gets a little wistful.

“I wonder if people realize how lucky they are and if there is love in their homes. People take things for granted.”

“I was raised on Maryland Avenue by my grandmother,” Wagner said. “I was born in Philadelphia. When I was 2 and my brother was 4 months old, my mother brought us home.”

Moore raised them while their mother worked at Owens-Illinois.

And while she was a great cook, she was the kind who jealously guarded her kitchen from invaders ... even if they were her grandchildren.

“Oh, she didn’t let anyone else in  her kitchen,” Wagner said with a twinkle in her eye.

“She made wonderful pies. I remember so many wonderful Thanksgiving dinners.

“I miss her. I miss her cooking. I didn’t learn to cook from her, not really. She never let me in the kitchen. I picked it up on my own.”

But remember, she doesn’t like to cook that much.

“Other people can do the cooking,” she said, laughing. “I wouldn’t mind hiring a cook.”

In the meantime, she makes Lemon Fluff in honor of her grandmother’s memory.

Every Wednesday through September, Take 5 wants you to take us on a picnic. Submit your summertime recipes to Debbie Wilson at 304-367-2549 or

Email Debra Minor Wilson at