Marjory Sweet | Apiece Apart Woman

Marjory Sweet | Apiece Apart Woman
 
One of our favorite discoveries last year was the cookbook Farm Lunch — a concise, spiral-bound resource for preparing, selecting, and eating vegetables. More a gentle guide than a strict recipe rulebook, Farm Lunch’s premise considers a way to cook that minimizes waste, works with what you have, and invites a reverence for the beautiful simplicity of seasonality… a welcome salve to contemporary cookbooks that require seven grocery stores and heavy-handed narratives. Farm Lunch’s author is Marjory Sweet, a Santa Fe-based farmer, writer, and cook who moved to New Mexico a decade ago. Born in Maine, Marjory worked in the gallery and fashion worlds before taking a hard left — leaving New York City for Albuquerque to work on a farm. One thing led to another, and in the years to come she’d begin hosting and cooking group farm dinners while quietly developing her way of preparing and thinking about food that paired the intuition of a farmer with a respect for classical technique and heritage. 


At once no-nonsense and deeply intentional, Marjory embodies a particular combination of New England tenacity with an aesthete’s endless well of curiosity and openness – a critical thinker who still leaves space for wonder. To cut to the core, we invited talented photographer and ceramicist Krysta Jacbzenski (more on Krysta soon!) to both photograph and guide this conversation with her friend. Read on for their discussion on the highs of harvesting, cooking with a farmer’s pragmatism, and life lessons learned from newborn goats. 

 

Marjory Sweet | Apiece Apart Woman

Krysta:

When we first met, you were dressed really well, and you sat down and got your drink, and you told me you had just come from butchering an entire lamb. I was like, "Who are you?!” Then I'm pretty sure that night, you told me about your goat Fiona — can you tell that story again?

Marjory:

I farmed in Albuquerque for eight years, and a big part of that was raising animals. I really feel that regenerative agricultural systems involve animals, and managing them as part of that ecosystem. So I chose to raise goats… they're these enduring, soulful creatures that can be a really amazing, self-sufficient piece of a small farm. 

One year, when my beloved Fiona was pregnant, I woke up in the middle of the night to her screaming. I ran out there in my pajamas to see her slumped over, screaming in pain, and I could see this little hoof sticking out. I just thought, "Oh, fuck!” It was too late to contact the E.R. livestock vet, so I pulled once at the hoof…and it felt cemented in there. It was one of those moments where it was all on me— I think we’re rarely in situations where you're forced to rely on your own fortitude. At that moment, I thought, "You know, even if this baby dies, I really have to attempt to save this other animal that I'm already committed to." So I braced one hand on Fiona and then grabbed the hoof, and pulled as hard as I could. To my astonishment, a living, slimy baby goat pops out of Fiona, and she immediately stops crying. I sat there for the next three hours, observing this baby come to life and this mama settle and help it. 

It's so easy to think the world is this ugly place. But then you have this experience where a perfect baby goat appears quietly in the middle of the night, and you know? Maybe there is still beauty in the world.

 

Marjory Sweet | Apiece Apart Woman

Krysta:

Are there other moments when farming that have brought you closer to this feeling of being alive?

Marjory:

I think farming is so compelling partly because all the life lessons are wrapped up in a single season. Shepherding plants and animals to life, into their fullest expression, really does deliver on these transcendent moments of peace and make you feel like there's some purpose to participating in the world. I think a big thing for me has been embracing the loss. There is the instinct to avoid pain and loss in life, but farming has helped me embrace how loss and unexpected change are part of the warmth and beauty of living.

Krysta:

Your life is oscillating between farming and cooking and writing, and sometimes one more than the other. What does a balanced week feel like for you right now?

Marjory:

I have two kinds of days: farming days and writing days. I am working on a new small cookbook, and I'm the harvest manager at a nonprofit farm in Santa Fe. The days I'm at the farm my responsibilities swallow up the whole day. It’s outside, intensely physical. Writing days are a relief from that — I'm indoors, thinking through things. I find that to be a fulfilling balance. The home cook in me enriches the writing that I'm doing, and enriches the farming that I'm doing, and ties those two pieces together.
 
Marjory Sweet | Apiece Apart Woman

Krysta:

Was that the inspiration behind Farm Lunch?

Marjory:

Farm Lunch was a natural extension of my approach to cooking that developed through farming. When you’re farming you have an endless stream of produce coming your way. You rarely sit down and think, "What would I like to make?” You just get into this rhythm of, “What do I have? I have tons of kale, all these padrons no one's buying, a bunch of lettuce mix that's not in good condition… what can I make?” I developed a rhythm in the kitchen based on that, starting by thinking, “How do I care for these ingredients? What are a few techniques I know that I can apply?” You put those things together, and to me, that's how you cook well.

Krysta:

Do you follow recipes yourself and are there cookbooks you love?

Marjory:

I have an extensive collection of cookbooks that is constantly growing. I love to read recipes — usually I will follow a recipe once, and then inevitably make a change. The more I grow food and cook, the more I'm interested in audaciously simple preparations, classic techniques, and regional styles of cooking.

Lately I've been more interested in older cookbooks: I really love Elizabeth David, Patience Gray’s book Honey From a Weed, and Edna Lewis' first book a lot. I think there's a quality to cookbooks from another era that is really special. The recipes work, they're very practical, the writing is lean, elegant, and uncluttered.

 

Marjory Sweet | Apiece Apart Woman

Krysta:

You're from Maine and still have a lot of family there and visit every summer. From a geographic and climate perspective, Maine and Santa Fe feel like polar opposites, but I’m curious if you see a connection between these places?

Marjory:

When I'm hiking with my dog Finn in the Galisteo Basin at sunrise, the landscape can really give me the same feeling of expansiveness as swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. I do think New Mexico and Maine share a wavelength — a rich topic for me at this moment. I've lived in New Mexico for 10 years, and while I feel at home here, more and more when I return to Maine I am struck by this profound sense of home and I have wondered if a homecoming is inevitable for me at some point. 

Krysta:

I'm going to take a sharp pivot. You love the NBA. If you were to magically be seated next to any NBA player at a dinner party, who would you want it to be, and what would you ask them?

Marjory:

I would have to say Kevin Durant. One, I’d ask him which rookie he fears the most this upcoming season. Two, what's the best meal he's had in Brooklyn?

 

Marjory Sweet | Apiece Apart Woman

Krysta:

What's a farming moment that made you giddy this season?

Marjory:

I can really get a high off of harvesting. It happened this year with cabbage. We had these Caraflex cabbage, a really beautiful cone-shaped cabbage I've never grown before myself. Chefs love them for being very dense and sweet. I just thought a handful were ready… but actually hundreds were ready. It can just be so invigorating to walk across a 200-foot bed and it’s perfect cabbage after cabbage appearing before your eyes. All of this labor you've done combined with the magic of the plant doing its own thing without you equalling 300 pounds of food. That feeling doesn't get old for me.

 

Marjory Sweet | Apiece Apart Woman

Krysta:

Name five things that are filling your cup.

Marjory:

1. Peaches.

2. I've always wanted a vintage wallpaper table to use as a dinner party table, because they're very long but they're easy to fold up. I'd been looking and looking and finally found one in pristine condition. 

3. Jhumpa Lahiri's newest book, Whereabouts. I read it cover to cover on a flight, and I was hypnotized. I really can't stop thinking about that book. 

4. My older brother, who is my best friend, gave me this really beautiful photo book for my birthday with photos by Gregory Halpern of his time in Guadaloupe. I'm super into French Caribbean music from the 60s and 70s but I've never thought about what those places look like. These photos are really stunning and for me enrich the experience of listening to the music.

5. The farm where I work just launched a free community fridge, which I'm really excited to see take shape and hopefully become one of many.