Milk Fed will make you hungry. I began reading it at breakfast, and before I knew it, I had consumed an entire box of Chocolate Cheerios. It’s about food and Jews and sex—an irresistible combo meal. With hints of Jami Attenberg’s mishpucha and spiced with Jennifer Weiner’s chutzpah, it is graphic, tender and poetic. Melissa Broder’s approach is perfectly sautéed lesbianism, a rom-com that turns serious.
Rachel is an assistant at a Los Angeles talent management firm who is disordered about food. She considers a clove cigarette and a cup of diet hot chocolate a meal. But beyond her restrictive relationship with food, she also has an unresolved appetite for sex and love. Not coincidentally, she meets her love interest at the counter of her favorite frozen yogurt shop, Yo!Good.
Miriam, the Yo!Good server, is an Orthodox Jew, a “zaftig girl” who “surpassed plump, eclipsed heavy.” Their romance begins with the seduction of a frozen yogurt hot fudge sundae, sprints past Sabbath dinner and then slow-dances into kisses, third base and noisy orgasms. To Rachel, Miriam is either a golem or a gift. Being a “Chanel bag Jew” rather than a “Torah Jew,” Rachel accepts the gift, and while she once admitted that “God isn’t, like, texting me Hi or anything,” she learns to appreciate God as well. “I’m down with it,” she says.
Rom-coms are never without their complications, and as Rachel begins to consume obsessively, her actions are not without fallout. Deep down, Rachel longs not to love but to be loved, a consequence of issues with her withholding mother. “Why did it feel so much safer to be wanted or needed than to be the one who wanted or needed?” Rachel says.
For those who enjoyed Broder’s The Pisces, much of Milk Fed will be welcome in its familiarity. But this is an even better book that’s enhanced by its Jewishness, its ripeness, its dreams.