Milk Fed
eBook - ePub

Milk Fed

A Novel

Melissa Broder

  1. 304 Seiten
  2. English
  3. ePUB (handyfreundlich)
  4. Über iOS und Android verfügbar
eBook - ePub

Milk Fed

A Novel

Melissa Broder

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Über dieses Buch

Named a Best Book of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Time, Esquire, BookPage, and more This darkly hilarious and "delicious new novel that ravishes with sex and food" ( The Boston Globe ) from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today is a "precise blend of desire, discomfort, spirituality, and existential ache" ( BuzzFeed ). Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, through obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.Rachel soon meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey."A ruthless, laugh-out-loud examination of life under the tyranny of diet culture" ( Glamour ) Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is "riotously funny and perfectly profane" ( Refinery 29 ) from "a wild, wicked mind" ( Los Angeles Times ).

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It didn’t matter where I lived—Mid-City, Mid-Wilshire, or Miracle Mile. It didn’t matter where I worked; one Hollywood bullshit factory was equal to any other. All that mattered was what I ate, when I ate, and how I ate it.
Every day at 7:30, my alarm went off. I’d remove the night-soaked piece of nicotine gum from my mouth, put it on the nightstand, and replace it with a fresh piece. I’d begun smoking at sixteen and was never without a cigarette. But when I started working at the talent management office, I was no longer able to smoke all day. I switched over to nicotine gum, which provided me with a way to “chew my cigarettes” and always be indulging. Now I was never without a piece of the gum. It helped me skillfully restrict my food intake, providing both a distraction for my mouth and a speedy suppressant for my appetite. I bought the gum on eBay, stale and discounted, so that I could afford it. At market prices I would have had a $300-a-week habit.
After popping a fresh piece, I’d get in the shower and drink a little water from the spigot, letting it mix with the coating from the gum. I preferred the coated varieties, Fruit Chill or Mint Blast, and did not count the coating in my daily caloric intake. Some days I worried how many calories the coating was adding. After the shower, I popped another piece of gum. Two more followed as I drove to work, heat blasting. This procession of gum was Breakfast One.
Between Breakfast One and Breakfast Two there was a stretch. Sometimes my blood sugar dropped so low that I’d feel dizzy and panicked. It was still worth it to postpone Breakfast Two, my first real food of the day, until 10:30 or 11. The later I started eating, the more food I could hoard for the back half of the day. Better to suffer now and have something to anticipate than to leave a big chunk of my day’s food in the rearview mirror. That was a worse kind of suffering.
If I made it to 11 with no food, I felt very good, almost holy. If I ate at 10:30 I felt bad, slovenly, though any negative feelings quickly gave way to the rapture of consuming Breakfast Two. The meal consisted of an 8-ounce container of 0% fat Greek yogurt with two packets of Splenda mixed in, as well as a diet chocolate muffin top that could only be purchased at Gelson’s supermarket. I was so emotionally dependent on these muffin tops that I feared what would happen in the event of a shortage. I bought six boxes at a time and stored them in my freezer.
The muffin top was 100 calories, and the yogurt was 90 calories: a perfect one-two punch of creaminess and sweetness, a symphony of flavor that couldn’t hurt me. My fondest time of the day was that instant I first put my spoon into the yogurt, just after having sprinkled half a Splenda packet on top. In that moment, there was so much left to eat, the muffin top not even touched, only a promise of chocolate. Afterward, I always wished I’d eaten more slowly, so I could still have something left to look forward to. The end of Breakfast Two was a sad time.
I ate Breakfast Two seated at my desk, directly across from another assistant named Andrew, who enjoyed NPR, natural peanut butter, and obscure Scandinavian films for the sake of their obscurity. Andrew’s head was one size too small for his gangly body. He had pinched nostrils, poised for disapproval, and he styled his hair in an ornate, indie-rocker shag that sat on his tiny head like a fright wig of cool. I knew he judged my use of chemical sweeteners, so I built a blockade with file folders, Ikea cacti, and a battalion of coffee mugs at the front of my desk to block his prying eyes. I at least deserved some privacy to fully enjoy my ritual.
Lunch was even trickier. At least two days a week, I was forced to join my boss—Brett Ofer—for lunch with clients, agents, and other industry people. I didn’t like eating with others. Lunch was the crown jewel of the day, and I preferred to savor it solo, not waste it on foods I hadn’t chosen. Ofer always made us go to the same restaurant, Last Crush, which shared a parking garage with our office. He insisted we get a bunch of small plates and split everything, “family style,” as though sharing a meatball made our clients feel like brethren. Who wanted Ofer as a relative? He acted like family was a good thing.
At Last Crush, I was forced to contend with macaroni and cheese, sliders, veal meatballs. Even the vegetables were tainted by interloping fats: Brussels sprouts choked with butter, mushrooms fried in bread crumbs, cauliflower lost to a shiny glaze. The arugula salad that I requested as my contribution to the smorgasbord was but a slippery cadaver: death by oil, goodbye.
On these outings, I would eat tiny portions of three of the dishes, assigning 100 calories to each portion and then adding an extra 100 to the total for anything I’d missed. While the algebraic formula was imperfect, it allowed me some illusion of control. But Ofer was always trying to haze me into eating more.
“Who wants the last slider? Rachel, I know youuu’re thinking about it,” he taunted, before breaking into chant. “Do it! Do it! Do it!”
Ofer was an eternal frat brother. He believed in loyalty, community—not because we had any real connection as individuals, but because we were part of the same something. As he extolled the virtues of our “collaborative office culture,” his bald head gleaming, a fleck of veal meatball on his lower lip, I imagined him delivering the same spiel to the Alpha Epsilon Pi pledges two decades prior.
“Do you know how lucky you are? You could be working at Management180, where nobody shares a goddamn lead on anything! You could be in Delta Upsilon, drinking your brother’s piss!”
Ofer had started in the mailroom at Gersh and worked his way up to agent. Nine years later, he’d left the cutthroat agency world to open a talent management company—The Crew—which made him think he had a soul. Worse yet, his wife had just given birth to twin daughters and he now identified as a “feminist.” Ofer was acquiring a perfunctory knowledge of social justice, as dictated by thinkpieces on diversity, inclusion, and equal pay in the Hollywood Reporter. He made constant references to his “privilege,” also our privilege to be working there. It bothered him that I didn’t feel lucky to be part of the family. Talent management was not my dream, and this hurt him.
When I wasn’t forced to go to Last Crush with Ofer and the clients, I was on my own for lunch. These were the good days. First, I would go to Subway, where they listed the calories for everything online. I would get a chopped salad with double turkey, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, pickles, and olives. It was a magic salad, packing explosive flavor into a modest caloric total of 160. Most of the time, my sandwich artist was a cute USC kid who piled his dreadlocks on top of his head to give him four inches of extra height. He always asked if I wanted “sauce,” the word for dressing at Subway, and I always told him no. Thankfully, he never questioned my choice. But sometimes he failed to incorporate the abundance of lettuce that gave the Subway salad its crucial bulk.
Occasionally, I had another sandwich artist, a ginger-haired teen with Invisalign. This guy made a mean salad, the lettuce really flowed, but he was far too interested in connecting with me as a person. The moment I walked in the door, he would call out, “Hey! Double turkey!” and I’d be like, “Hi, thanks, no photos.” I didn’t have to tell him that I wanted no sauce, because he always remembered, muttering, “No sauce, no sauce.” But every few salads, he felt the need to interrogate me, asking, “Yo, why you don’t use the sauce? It’s free!” to which I would say “I just don’t like it.” “Too spicy? Too wet?” he’d ask. “Just salt and pepper, please,” I’d say.
I always ate the salad at one of the little outdoor patio tables outside Subway, though that wasn’t ideal. On the one hand, there was no way I was going to eat inside the restaurant with the sandwich artists watching me. But when I ate outdoors, I became prey for any of the passersby, including people from my office.
It wasn’t that eating a Subway salad was inherently shameful. But I liked my food rituals to be protected—fully differentiated from my work life as much as possible. This was mine and mine alone. It was not to be shared. So I ate outside facing a stucco wall. I ate hungrily and greedily, sometimes shoving forkfuls of the turkey-pickle-pepper mixture in my mouth, other times seeking out a single ingredient, like just one olive on my fork.
The triumph of my lunch was that it contained two courses: the grand salad and then frozen yogurt. I loved food that came in multiple parts, prolonging the experience. If I could be infinitely eating, I would be. I had to restrict my intake, or I’d never not be putting something in my mouth.
Subway was flanked by two frozen yogurt shops, Yogurt World and Yo!Good. At Yogurt World you got to serve yourself. No one manhandled your yogurt or toppings, and checkout was even automated. The grace was zero social interaction. At Yo!Good, you had to order through a server, but their yogurt made it worth it. Yo!Good had banana, caramel, and cake-batter flavors that were fat free, sugar-free, low-carb, and just 45 calories for a half cup. This meant that I could get a 16-ounce serving for 180 calories. At Yogurt World, the lowest-calorie yogurts were 120 calories for 4 ounces. I had to get the kids’ size to rival Yo!Good’s numbers. So I sacrificed privacy for mathematic soundness and quantity.
I was grateful that the counter boy at Yo!Good had little interest in talking to me. He was an Orthodox Jewish boy who looked to be about nineteen or twenty. He was very quiet, polite, and wore a blue yarmulke and curly peyos. His gentleness made me feel sad—also, the way he pronounced the word yogurt as yuh-gort. I felt like I could cry between the two syllables. There was an innocence there, an earnest desire to please the customer, a recognition of yogurt as a substance of great import, a calculated precision with the yogurt machine that felt like care. You didn’t find that kind of focus in food service every day. He also possessed a contained isolation, never handing me the yogurt cup directly, always placing it on the countertop in front of me, pointing to the counter to receive my money, no hand-to-hand, our worlds not to touch. It was as though he were a ghost from a lost time. Or maybe it was just a time lost to me.


The Reform synagogue I’d attended growing up in Short Hills, New Jersey, was way more Chanel bag Jew than Torah Jew. I felt most Jewish when my grandparents, also Reform but deeply obsessed with Jewish food, would drive me to New York and take me on a tour of all the old culinary haunts of our tribe. My grandparents were considered medically obese. They’d both developed diabetes as a result of their weight, but food remained something to be celebrated. There were delicious warm buttered onion rolls and creamed herring at the kosher dairy restaurants, cabbage borscht and hot pastrami sandwiches at Second Avenue Deli. There were black-and-white cookies from William Greenberg Desserts, pints and quarts of pickles—sour, half sour, and sweet—from Guss’ on Essex Street.
When I got back from New York, my mother would ask for a full report of all I had eaten. “Do you want to be a chubby or do you want boys to like you?” she’d say.
My grandparents were only a brief respite from the universe. My mother was what the universe was really about. My mother the sun, my mother the rules, my mother, god herself! My mother the high priestess of food, the religion of our household: abstain, abstain, abstain! My mother with her archaic ideas about dieting: melon and cottage cheese, tuna and carrot sticks, melba toast. My mother the judge storming into the dressing room at the children’s clothing shop, me age six, her whispering, “Look at Amy Dickstein in that dress. Now look at you.” It was a whisper that implanted itself in me, a whisper that stuck.
I was softly plump, like a dumpling, and short. She feared the shortness would lead to more weight gain, that it would make the weight show. She saw future pain, frightened that I would grow up to be like her parents, whose obesity had caused her shame, or her fat cousin Wendy, who was unhappy. I wondered, if I could go back and rescue myself from that dressing room, would I do it? I probably wouldn’t. I thought that soft little girl was disgusting too.
The more my mother restricted my food intake, the more I binged in secret. She didn’t understand why I was expanding, that I was stealing candy from convenience stores, eating other kids’ lunches in the coatroom. She eyed me from across a birthday party as I chewed a bite of cake. She threatened to ask my teachers what I was eating if I gained more weight. Once a month I was weighed on a scale at the YMCA. She didn’t yell in public, but in the car I would cry in the back seat.
At sixteen I began restricting my food intake for myself. I developed an arsenal of tricks: Diet Coke, cigarettes, fake-sweetened everything, meal delay, steamed vegetables, never eating with others. My grandparents and I took our trip to New York, but the restaurants that were once my temples had become a threat. I fended off cheese blintzes, knishes, and schnecken, replaced cherry hamantaschen with Dr. Brown’s diet soda. I slurped around matzo balls, set boundaries with bagels, found safety in pickles—so low-calorie, baruch hashem.
For years I couldn’t be thin enough. Then, in an instant, I was too thin. If I had 20 pounds to lose, I lost 45. I wanted to stay there forever. I pared my food back further: spinach, broccoli, steamed chicken. I called it my Spartan regimen. I felt high on my sacrifice.
But I was freezing all the time. I lived in the bathtub. A downy fur grew on my body. My period stopped. At night I dreamt of wild buffets. My hip bones chafed against the bed. At school there were whispers. My mother said nothing.
One night, I was shivering so badly I got scared I would die.
“I have to tell you something,” I said to my mother. “I think I have an eating disorder, anorexia maybe.”
“Anorexics are much skinnier than you,” she said. “They look like concentration camp victims. They have to be hospitalized. You aren’t anorexic.”
“I haven’t gotten my period in months.”
This troubled her. My fertility was important; she wanted grandchildren one day. She sent me to a nutritionist, who helped me increase my daily calorie intake. We did it slowly, methodically, with charts and lists that reduced every food to its serving size and caloric value.
I went from freezing to just cold. The shaking stopped. The fur disappeared. I could sleep on my stomach. The whispers got quiet. I bled again. But I remained engrossed in calories. The constant mathematics in my head never went away.


As I waited in line at Yo!Good, I plotted the concoctions I would create if I ever found myself magically immune to calories. I envisioned red velvet yogurt dripping in caramel, freckled with slivers of Snickers. I buried a dulce de leche yogurt in marshmallow sauce, then poured a stream of crumbled Oreos over its sweet head. On a Dutch chocolate planet lived every species of gummy: bear, worm, fish, penguin, dino, and peach ring. It snowed Reese’s Pieces and chocolate sprinkles on a cake-batter-flavored mountain.
They had everything: strawberries in syrup, cookie dough balls, and tiny white chocolate nonpareils in a rainbow of pastel shades. They had hot fudge, warm caramel, and a butterscotch sauce that hardened at the moment of impact. They had a diet version of the hot fudge that made me consider, What if? What if I just had a drizzle? But the nebulous calorie count of a drizzle posed too many variables. I feared that if I tried the sauce once, I’d never eat my yogurt without it again. I didn’t trust myself to taste the fudge and let go.
Thankfully, the Orthodox boy didn’t say, “No topping?” the way the Subway sandwich artist always said, “No sauce?” I watched him closely as he pumped the yogurt, inspecting to make sure that he didn’t go over the top (that airspace was calorically uncountable). When he reached the top, I called out, “Stop!”
He stopped right away, brought the cup to the register, and pleasantly issued the total for the yuh-gort. Other than in his politeness, he showed no recognition that I was a regular customer. I was thankful for that.
I consumed the first three-quarters of the cup at the back corner table inside Yo!Good facing two walls. I was always cold, but I preferred to eat inside the chilly yogurt parlor than outside at the sunny tables, because they were popular. I had a specific style and rhythm with which I liked to eat the yogurt, and I didn’t want anyone watching me. First, I licked around the sides of the cup to get the melty parts. Then, I put spoonful after spoonful of the cooler stuff in my mouth and squeegeed it back and forth between my teeth to liquify it.
For the final quarter of the yogurt, I abandoned my method and headed outside with what remained in the cup. Those last five minutes in the sun felt like Eden, the end of Eden really, because the freezing office awaited. They kept it so deeply air-conditioned that I wore a puffer jacket at my desk. But in those last few moments of warmth, I communed with the dregs of the yogurt and imagined the sun was penetrating me—creating a force field that could live interna...


  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Dedication
  4. Epigraph
  5. Chapter 1
  6. Chapter 2
  7. Chapter 3
  8. Chapter 4
  9. Chapter 5
  10. Chapter 6
  11. Chapter 7
  12. Chapter 8
  13. Chapter 9
  14. Chapter 10
  15. Chapter 11
  16. Chapter 12
  17. Chapter 13
  18. Chapter 14
  19. Chapter 15
  20. Chapter 16
  21. Chapter 17
  22. Chapter 18
  23. Chapter 19
  24. Chapter 20
  25. Chapter 21
  26. Chapter 22
  27. Chapter 23
  28. Chapter 24
  29. Chapter 25
  30. Chapter 26
  31. Chapter 27
  32. Chapter 28
  33. Chapter 29
  34. Chapter 30
  35. Chapter 31
  36. Chapter 32
  37. Chapter 33
  38. Chapter 34
  39. Chapter 35
  40. Chapter 36
  41. Chapter 37
  42. Chapter 38
  43. Chapter 39
  44. Chapter 40
  45. Chapter 41
  46. Chapter 42
  47. Chapter 43
  48. Chapter 44
  49. Chapter 45
  50. Chapter 46
  51. Chapter 47
  52. Chapter 48
  53. Chapter 49
  54. Chapter 50
  55. Chapter 51
  56. Chapter 52
  57. Chapter 53
  58. Chapter 54
  59. Chapter 55
  60. Chapter 56
  61. Chapter 57
  62. Chapter 58
  63. Chapter 59
  64. Chapter 60
  65. Chapter 61
  66. Chapter 62
  67. Chapter 63
  68. Chapter 64
  69. Chapter 65
  70. Chapter 66
  71. Chapter 67
  72. Chapter 68
  73. Chapter 69
  74. Chapter 70
  75. Chapter 71
  76. Chapter 72
  77. Chapter 73
  78. Chapter 74
  79. Chapter 75
  80. Chapter 76
  81. Chapter 77
  82. Chapter 78
  83. Chapter 79
  84. Acknowledgments
  85. Reading Group Guide
  86. Recipes
  87. About the Author
  88. Copyright
Zitierstile für Milk Fed

APA 6 Citation

Broder, M. (2021). Milk Fed ([edition unavailable]). Scribner. Retrieved from (Original work published 2021)

Chicago Citation

Broder, Melissa. (2021) 2021. Milk Fed. [Edition unavailable]. Scribner.

Harvard Citation

Broder, M. (2021) Milk Fed. [edition unavailable]. Scribner. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Broder, Melissa. Milk Fed. [edition unavailable]. Scribner, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.