Her living room, highlighted by a wide, hearthlike fireplace, mixes unfinished woods and brushed concrete to give the interior an air of understated chic. "You can spill a drink without it being a big deal," Cindy says. Her sister Mary, who sells Asian and African art, added exotic touches like Moroccan hanging lamps, Yoruban masks from Nigeria, Balinese shadow puppets, and, in a nook behind the dining table, an ornate Afghani camel saddle that's been reinvented as a storage unit.

Up a short flight of stairs is the couple's bedroom, a jewel box of a retreat with cherrywood floors, a modish black-metal fireplace, delicate Chinese furnishings, and windows behind and over the bed that look out onto the trees. "When it's windy, these massive pinecones drop down onto the skylight and scare the living heck out of me," Cindy says. A second bedroom was converted into a library for her extraordinary collection of cookbooks from around the world. She has close to 4,000 volumes—so many, they fill the library's built-in, floor-to-ceiling birchwood bookshelves and spill over into another tent cabin she uses as an office. Cindy, whose knowledge of culinary techniques, flavors, and history can best be described as encyclopedic, has developed her own system to keep track of titles. "It starts with French," she explains, pulling out Julia Child's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, "then the shelves go to Spanish, Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, and I basically work my way east around the planet."

Dingo and Cole wag their way in, signaling to Cindy that it's time for their afternoon walk—and time for her to think about getting back to work. These days, she puts in one shift a week at Mustards, one at Go Fish, and one at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. "Weekends I'll go wherever I'm most needed," she says, "and the rest of the time is for writing, pottery, and for John." It's a schedule she loves, though it does present its challenges. With the sun glinting through the trees and a golden glow spreading across her face, Cindy looks out to the valley she's served all these years. "The hardest part about this house ," she says, "is sometimes I actually have to leave it and go make a living."


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