Eating Authors: Philippa (Pip) Ballantine

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Philippa Ballantine

You often hear how writing is a very solitary endeavor, and that’s certainly been my experience. Which makes successful collaborations pretty amazing. But even more incredible is when the writing duo are not just in work partners, but life partners as well. The best example I know are Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. But I’m proud to be hosting a second pair here on EATING AUTHORS. You met Tee Morris last month. This week we hear from his better half, Philippa Ballantine.

As you may have inferred from Tee’s appearance, Phillipa is from Wellington, and was the first New Zealand author to podcast a novel! In addition to the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels she writes with her husband (the latest of which, The Diamond Conspiracy, came out just last week), Pip is also the author of the four volume Books of the Order series, and the two book Shifted World series. Her work has earned her a Sir Julius Vogel award, a Parsec award, an Airship award, and an assortment of additional nominations.

She’s since crossed the equator and now lives in Virginia, which works out well for me because both she and Tee will be attending Ravencon later this month. I’ll be there too, as one of the GoHs, and I’m looking forward to having her sign a book or two.

LMS: Welcome, Pip. So tell me, what’s your most memorable meal?

PB: Living and growing up in New Zealand, food is very important. The country is covered with cafes, vineyards, farms and fine dining establishments. New Zealanders eat a lot of seafood, lamb, fruits and vegetables because we are just spoiled for choice in fresh ingredients.

My most memorable meal, was the meal I had back in 2010 with my family, introducing my co-writer and soon to be husband, to my New Zealand family.

The Diamond Conspiracy

Now my Dad loves to take people out to the fine restaurants we have in my hometown of Wellington, New Zealand. His favorite was the White House… which I found amusing at the time since Tee is American.

Actually, I hoped he wouldn’t be offended.

The White House was in an old building, right across from Oriental Bay. This is part of the city waterfront, nestled in the harbor, and not far from downtown. The restaurant itself was on the second floor, so there was always a spectacular view of the harbor. The chef was considered to be the top one in the city, and the restaurant won all sorts of awards—in fact it stayed that way for over twenty years.

So yes, it was a pretty swish place… as us kiwis would say.

The family got dressed up all nice, and I examined Tee to make sure he was presentable. The candlelight on the immaculate table, reflected in the windows, along with the lighting on the walkway we could see through the same window.

Hunter and Fox

I was a bit nervous for Tee, but also a bit worried. I’d had previously taken an American friend out on the town, and despite the great food, he didn’t quite take to the relaxed way New Zealanders tend to take their time with a good meal.

This one turned out to be three hours long, with lots of courses, wine, and thankfully laughter. This time, everything was well.

Once I saw that Tee was in his element with his family, I could concentrate on the food.

I am a big sucker for seafood, or kai moana as New Zealanders would say. So I immediately latched onto the seafood sample. It had scallops, shrimp, squid, and my favorite, green shelled mussels. Honestly, once you’ve had New Zealand mussels, other smaller ones just don’t cut it… so you are warned.

Then I had the lamb. In New Zealand, always try the lamb. I had the cutlets and they were flavorsome and cooked to perfection (just pink in the middle).


Dessert was a platter of different chocolates. Since this is my favorite flavor, I took my time. Chocolate mousse, light and fluffy. A round of chocolate cake, so dense and rich. Chocolate covered fruit. It was wonderful with my glass of Pinot Noir.

It was a wonderful meal, with my wonderful family, and as well as feeling full and happy, I also left knowing that my new love would fit in just fine with everyone.

Sadly the White House has closed down since then—it had to once the building was damaged after a recent, rather large earthquake. However, the chefs have moved further into the wharf area, with a new restaurant called White Bait. I’m certainly planning on visiting once I get back to my hometown.

Thanks, Pip! Having dined at Te Papa (the national museum, which I was told was the only five-star restaurant in Wellington) the key message for me is indeed, “In New Zealand, always try the lamb.”

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



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