Out To Lunch: A Novel
by Stacey Ballis
In so many ways in her novels, foodie author Stacey Ballis tells us, “Food is
one of the ultimate expressions of love.”
Jenna, the main character, cooks with and for those she loves. The kitchen, as in
so many foodie novels and memoirs, is the center of creativity, self-esteem and the way we, who are
foodies, reach out to friends and family.
Stacey does the same thing, she told me. “If you are handy, you might fix a squeaky door or leaky faucet. For me, I’m good in the kitchen, so if you are sick I want to bring you soup and if you are sad I want to bring you your favorite comfort foods, and if something great is happening for you, I want to celebrate by making a dinner party in your honor. Also, I can’t fix a leaky faucet.” What this very personable and witty author can also do is write wonderful novels.
The kitchen is where Jenna helps and heals others, finding her sense of self and ultimately her road in life without Aimee, her previous guide-friend. Jenna’s best friend and business partner, Aimee dies. Somehow, despite this beginning, this novel is both poignant and hilarious.
Jenna’s catering company, her series of boyfriends and, as requested in Amee's will, the supervision of Amee's klutzy husband Wayne, fills her time. Jenna continues to hear her friend's voice (the Voix) directing her, from clothing choice to boyfriends. Dogs, friends, family and food are stirred together with eccentric yet lovable characters.
Wayne plagues Jenna. One of his many annoying habits is limiting his food to only a few choices. I asked Stacey how she created this unusual, and even, difficult character. She responded, “What could be worse than someone who only eats 11 things getting foisted on a chef?!”
Wayne’s eating is finally explained when we learn of his mother’s death and his abandonment emotionally. “The only foods that I ever ate that gave me any pleasure from the time I was about six till my mom died were those dinners with Mrs. Jennings. So those I guess are the only foods I ever associated with being safe and fed and taken care of.”
The novel is lighthearted yet serious topics are profoundly put forth. Emotional connections to food are well known—and foods provide TLC in human life. For those for whom food is not secure, food, eating and family assume essential roles in life. I came to understand how my father’s hunger in his childhood created the food lined shelves in our basement. Like Wayne, my dad associated food with being safe and being cared for.
When I asked Stacey what food does for her characters, she responded, “Food does the same thing for my characters as it does for me. It is an expression of love and kindness. It is a gift. It is comfort. I think good food, made with love, sustains us at our heart and soul level, beyond what it does for fueling our bodies.”
Jenna cooks with and for those she loves. The kitchen, as in so many foodie novels and memoirs, is the center of creativity, self-esteem and the way we, who are foodies, reach out to friends and family. “I like something homemade and simple. Something from your heart. Preferably delicious.”
I can’t wait to consume Stacey’s other novels. And her recipes are so good—I already made Aimee’s Salad Bar Soup. Fabulous. Stacey asked me to share the recipe here.
Stacey has just published her first cookbook of recipes from her novels. Click here to check out
Big Delicious Life: Stacey Ballis's Most Awesome Recipes on Amazon for $0.99