She gives a sheepish laugh. "You said on the phone you were a food writer, and I couldn't help googling you. I've already ordered your book about olive oils. I hope you'll autograph it for me."
"I'd be happy to."
"I think you'll find this the 'perfect' house to write in." She leads me into the kitchen, a bright and airy space with black and white floor tiles set in a geometric pattern. "There's a six-burner stove and an extra-large oven. I'm afraid the kitchenware's rather basic, just a few pots and pans, but you did say you were bringing your own cookware."
"Yes. I have a long list of recipes I need to test, and I never go anywhere without my knives and sauté pans."
"So what's your new book about?"
"Traditional New England cooking. I'm exploring the cuisine of seafaring families."
She laughs. "That would be salt cod and more salt cod."
"It's also about their way of life. The long winters and cold nights and all the risks that fishermen took just to haul in the catch. It wasn't easy, living off the sea."
"No, it certainly wasn't. And the proof of that is in the next room."
"What do you mean?"
"I'll show you."
We move into an intimate front parlor, where the fireplace has already been laid with wood and kindling, ready to be lit. Above the mantelpiece is an oil painting of a ship heeling on a turbulent sea, its bow cutting through wind-tossed foam.
"That painting's just a reproduction," says Donna. "The original painting's on display in the historical society, down in the village, where they also have a portrait of Jeremiah Brodie. He cut quite a figure. Tall, with jet black hair."
"Brodie? Is that why this house is called Brodie's Watch?"
"Yes. Captain Brodie made his fortune as a ship's master sailing between here and Shanghai. He built this house in 1861." She looks at the painting of the ship plowing through waves and she shudders. "I get seasick just looking at that picture. You couldn't pay me to set foot on one of those things. Do you sail?"
"I did as a child, but I haven't been on a boat in years."
"This coastline is supposed to be one of the best places in the world for sailing, if that's your thing. It's certainly not mine." She crosses to a set of double doors and swings them open. "And here's my favorite room in the whole house."
I step through the doorway and my gaze is instantly riveted to the view beyond the windows. I see rolling drifts of fog, and through the curtain of mist I catch glimpses of what lies beyond: the sea.
"When the sun comes out, this view will take your breath away," says Donna. "You can't see the ocean now, but just wait till tomorrow. This fog should clear up by then."
I want to linger by that window but already she's moving on, hurrying me through the tour, into a formal dining room furnished with a heavy oak table and eight chairs. On the wall hangs another ship's painting, this one by a far less skillful artist. The
vessel's name is mounted on the frame.
"That was his ship," says Donna.
"It's the one he went down on. His first mate painted this picture and gave it to Brodie as a gift, the year before they were both lost at sea."