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Meet The Locals: Foodie And Author Peta Heine

Food lover, cooking teacher and author Peta Heine tells us why she moved to the Surf Coast, the stories behind her two cookbooks, and why she swims in the ocean every day, even in winter.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, Peta. How did you come to be living here on the Surf Coast?

My husband Dave and I moved to Anglesea last September. We’ve got six kids between us (Dave has four, and I have two), and when they still lived at home, we lived separately. When they all moved out, Dave and I bought a house together for the first time. Rather than one of us moving into the other’s place, we thought we would make a complete change. And we wanted to make that geographical as well.

How did you decide on the Surf Coast?

For the last decade or so, home was the Macedon Ranges. When we were moving, we really wanted that juxtaposition change, where it wasn’t a little bit different; it was very different. My sister lives here on the coast, so that was one of the main reasons we came here. And its proximity to Melbourne. If the kids want to zoom down on the weekends, it’s easy.

Now that you’re here, what do you love about it?

It’s completely different in its emotional feel. It’s a bit laid back and I really love that. Dare I say, I think it’s a bit daggy, and I really like that. You can dress yourself up if you want, but if you don’t want to, it doesn’t really matter. I like that. I haven’t lived by the ocean for ages and, now I’m near the beach again, I’ve just fallen in love with the way it changes all the time.

I’ve heard you swim in the sea most mornings, even in winter!

I swim every day, which we started last September. It’s crazy cold. I have been doing a bit of reading about it, and it’s a vagus nerve calmer. Having that cold interaction for at least five to 10 minutes calms you. I got concussed a year or so ago, and when I was at the concussion clinic, they asked me if anything took away the symptoms entirely, and I’d just started swimming. I said, “Well, the only thing is being in the cold water.” It just grew from there. I go every day and I watch the tides. I swim at high tide, so I don’t have to walk out too far. Every time you go to the beach, there’s something different. I love that. One day it’s this peaceful, gorgeous, serene place. Then on other days, it looks like there have been battles there overnight. There’s stuff everywhere, and things have washed up or washed away.

Thinking of selling?
Just researching the market?

You’re a foodie – tell me about that.

I grew up in Adelaide in a very foodie family. I’ve always loved food, and I’ve always been in hospitality. When my first daughter was born, I was still in hospitality, but it’s a pretty hard field to be in when you have a baby. I went looking for another job and found a job at the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. I was the first cooking teacher employed there. And that started me on a new track of teaching and discovering why food’s good for you. I still teach; I teach young adults with acquired brain injuries how to cook at Heads Together for ABI.

Such meaningful work. And you’ve also written a couple of cookbooks, haven’t you?

My first cookbook, We Love Food: Family Recipes From The Garden, came out in 2010. I’d written a life plan in my 20s and I found it again not long after I’d moved up to the Macedon Ranges. On it was, “Write a cookbook.” So, I thought, “Well, I have to do that.” I had just made a new friend, Kirsty Manning, and she was the only connection I had with publishing. We both had little kids at the time. I said, “Do you want to write a book with me?” Because she loved gardening and I love cooking. So, we did.

And you’ve written another cookbook more recently, too.

I did write another one in 2020. It’s called The Fibre Bible. I had just started a degree in nutrition and when I was learning about the endocrine system, which is all your hormones, I started reading about all the hormones in the gut. It got me thinking about how hormones pretty much drive everything in your body and they’re connected to your brain, so your brain-gut connection is driving everything. And what you eat will directly be related to how you feel. One of the most important nutrients you can give your gut is fibre because that’s what gut bacteria like to eat. Bacteria will feed on whatever you put in your gut, but the science says if you put bad things in there, you’ll have more bad bacteria. If you put good things in there, you’ll have more good bacteria. And those bad bacteria send messages like, “I need more sugar and carbs.” And inversely, the opposite happens. It’s not completely black and white, but if you put good stuff in there, you’re less likely to crave those things as much. That’s why I got interested in it.

Sounds like a recipe for good health to me! Thanks for the chat, Peta.