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Cook Like An Ancient Roman Using This Salt Alternative From 'Tasting History With Max Miller'


When Max Miller learned he was being furloughed from his job at Disney earlier in the year, he didn't look ahead like most life coaches might advise. Instead, Max looked back. Way back into the past, specifically to the origins of some the world's most popular foods, many of which have since fallen out of fashion or been relegated to the annals of history.

A lover of history himself and a self-proclaimed novice chef, Max fused both passions into "Tasting History with Max Miller," a YouTube series of fun and fact-filled food stories, produced from his home in Los Angeles.

In each installment, Max takes an anachronistic deep dive into a singular ingredient or dish he's researched and found worthy of exploration. Old cookbooks, food histories, and facsimiles of ancient cooking guides, like his personal favorite "The Forme of Cury," provide a backbone for "Tasting History," and he tells me on a recent phone call that many of the series' key revelations have been enlightening to both him and his viewers.

Ancient Rome's Favorite Condiment

In one of the most popular episodes, Max explains how Roman cooking was almost completely free from salt, save for a salty fermented fish sauce called Garum that was used to season foods, both savory and sweet. In the 16-minute video, which has been viewed over a million times, Max sets out to make garum himself from scratch by boiling whole fish and fermenting them in jars.

Medieval cuisine and ingredients from that period are common themes and seem to be points of fascination for the host. The series already sports a slew of episodes from the era with topics like Loseyns, a Medieval English lasagna to another recapping the strangest recorded cures for the Black Plague.

With no formal background in cooking or history, Max leans on his natural love of both to drive the series, now 35 episodes in. Amateur or not, it's abundantly clear that writing and hosting a show like "Tasting History" comes naturally to Max, who cites Alton Brown, host of Food Network's hit series "Good Eats," and "The Great British Baking Show" as key inspirations. At present, Tasting History boasts more than 321,000 subscribers and over 8 million total views from folks who are hungry for some history of the edible sort.

Half the fun of "Tasting History" is watching Max read, interpret, and translate ancient recipes into our current vernacular—no easy task. In the aforementioned video on lasagna, for instance, Max runs into a recipe written in Old English that calls for "ruayn."  An educated guess reveals it is likely a semi-soft cheese traditionally made during autumn, for some reason, and gouda is deemed a suitable modern substitute.

The Tomato's Rocky Road to Stardom

In some cases, "Tasting History" will take just a small bite out of an ingredient, as one recent episode on tomatoes. In it, Max unearths the now-ubiquitous fruit's sordid history where, after having been discovered in Central America and brought back to Europe, the tomato received a rocky reception and was labeled poisonous by Italian intelligentsia for decades before evolving into one of its culinary superstars. Who knew?!

When asked about what's in store for the series, Max says he's raring to get out in the world and shoot videos on location with experts in the places where all this food history happened—when it's safe to do so, of course. For now, he plans to keep whipping up more fascinating histories straight from his home kitchen.  And we can't wait to see what's next.

Written By David Watsky

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