Max Miller is a rising YouTube personality with a new show, “Tasting History”, which combines cooking and historical facts together to feed body and mind. We caught up with him to discuss the runaway success of his show.
The Knockturnal: What inspired you to create Tasting History?
Max Miller: I’d been baking historical dishes and sharing their history with my coworkers for years; ever since I became obsessed with the ‘Great British Bake Off’ six years ago. It was one of those coworkers who gave me the idea of putting what I was doing up on YouTube.
The Knockturnal: Where do you go for research on each dish?
Max Miller: It really varies. I often start with a recipe or a dish and then look for primary sources that talk about that dish. I love using direct quotes from the time period I’m covering, so learning who was writing about food at the time is paramount. The best way to do that is often a simple Google search. From there, I start looking at articles and specifically their bibliographies. That’s where the good information always is. That always leads to those wonderful primary sources.
The Knockturnal: What new information did you get out of researching these cultures?
Max Miller: Honestly, the majority of what is in an episode is new information for me. I treat the show as my learning experience that I then share with the viewer. I’ve learned so much since the beginning that it’s hard to point at any one thing. I do think that the most enlightening episode for me was when I covered a dish from China during the Ming Dynasty. Absolutely everything was new as I’ve never been exposed to much Chinese history. What was exciting and difficult was that not only were the 17th-century sources never translated to English, but many of the modern sources on the subject were never translated either. I depended on several very helpful viewers to translate passages so that I could put together what ended up being one of the most intriguing stories I’ve told on the show.
The Knockturnal: Of the dishes you’ve made, which one do you feel is your favorite to make?
Max Miller: I think my favorite to make was a Victorian-style Christmas Pudding, an episode that will be coming out next week. It was by far the most difficult thing I’ve yet made, but it was also a lot of fun. It’s a very long process (it takes weeks for the final product), and you don’t know if you’ve done it correctly until you’re a day into the process. I had a very expensive and very laborious disaster the first time I tried it, but it made it even more rewarding when I got it right.
The Knockturnal: Of the cultures you’ve looked over, what was your favorite to research?
Max Miller: My favorite is medieval England. I’ve always been drawn to it and the more I research it, the more I enjoy it. I feel like it’s very foreign due to its proximity in time, but at the same time is quite relatable. I think it comes down to language. Reading translations always puts a slight distance between you and the original author, but with English history, at least after 1300 or so, the language is close enough to ours that you can understand precisely what the author is saying. I love that.
The Knockturnal: How does it feel that your show is popular enough that outlets like the New York Post are covering it?
Max Miller: It feels surreal. I mean, I started this as a way to keep busy during the quarantine. It was never supposed to be anything but a distraction so the attention that it’s received has been unexpected to say the least. Honestly, it feels like it’s happening to someone else, or else that it is all just a mistake, but I’m enjoying it, so I hope it continues.
The Knockturnal: Considering your gaming hobby, have you ever made a dish that was based on a video game?
Max Miller: Not directly, but I’ve linked a few dishes in the show to video games. I think the closest thing I ever made was an ill-fated attempt at cake balls shaped like pokeballs. Obviously, it was not for the show, but it was still fun to make, even if they were an unmitigated disaster.
The Knockturnal: What can we expect for the upcoming episodes?
Max Miller: This next month is all about the holidays. I have a Victorian Christmas Pudding, tamales, and eggnog. I also am doing a dish from ancient Rome and discussing the festival of Saturnalia.
The Knockturnal: What are your plans for 2021?
Max Miller: I hope that next year I’ll be able to step up a few episodes and tackle some of the dishes that I’ve found too daunting so far. Though that may require a bigger oven. Everything else I want to do sort of depends on what happens with COVID. I’d love to do a few episodes “on the road,” but obviously that may not be viable for a while yet.