Tasting History

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That's the name of a viral YouTube channel that I had never heard of, and now a popular book that Barbara Phillips Long called to my attention:

My son gave me a copy of Tasting History, by Max Miller, which takes very old recipes and gives modern approximations of them. The book is handsomely printed, well illustrated, and fun, with a wide range of random food trivia and loads of food history. You might find it intriguing.
There's a raspberry shrub recipe from 1911; I seem to recall Language Log having a post about shrubs and their origins.
There are also ten recipes credited to the Near and Far East, including recipes from Egypt, Baghdad, the Mughal Empire, India, China, Korea, and Japan.
So far, I have only read part of the book, although I paged through the whole thing. I did like this quote:
They say "history is written by the victors," but in my experience, history is written by those who write stuff down, and food is no exception.

Wanting to learn more about the book, especially the language aspects of the recipes in it, I found this on the website of the publisher:

What began as a passion project when Max Miller was furloughed during Covid-19 has become a viral YouTube sensation. The Tasting History with Max Miller channel has thrilled food enthusiasts and history buffs alike as Miller recreates a dish from the past, often using historical recipes from vintage texts, but updated for modern kitchens as he tells stories behind the cuisine and culture. From ancient Rome to Ming China to medieval Europe and beyond, Miller has collected the best-loved recipes from around the world and has shared them with his fans. Now, with beautiful photographs portraying the dishes and historical artwork throughout, Tasting History compiles over sixty dishes such as:

-Tuh’u: a red beet stew with leeks dating back to 1740 BC
-Globi: deep-fried cheese balls with honey and poppy seeds
-Soul Cakes: yeasted buns with currants from circa 1600
-Pumpkin Tourte: a crustless pumpkin cheesecake with cinnamon and sugar on top from 1570

The names are enticing and the short descriptions make me drool — "globi" sounds just right for an ancient Roman forerunner of cheesecake bites.

Here are two samples of Max Miller's YouTube presentations:

Yuanxiao from the Ming Dynasty


Why Vampires Hate Garlic – A Transylvanian Recipe from 1580

Here's the complete playlist of Max Miller's YouTube channel, so far as I know it:

How to Brew Civil War Coffee with Sweet Potatoes

An Alcatraz Prisoner's Meal

How to Eat Like a Pirate: Hardtack & Grog

Ship's Biscuits

Feeding a Greek Hoplite – Ancient Rations

Ancient Greek Itrion — sesame seed biscuits with honey

First Class Breakfast on the RMS Titanic

Medieval Table Manners

beef ribs

Feeding King Tut

Food of the Pharaoh

500 Year-Old Pizza VS Today

Dining First Class on the RMS Titanic

A History of Tacos

tacos from 1831

Hardtack & Hell Fire Stew

Civil War rations

Spartan BLACK BROTH | Melas Zomos

feeding a Spartan warrior

French Onion Soup from 1651

The Great Molasses Flood | Boston Brown Bread

in a can

The Original PB&J from 1901

History of Peanut Butter & Jelly

Catherine the Great & the Volga Germans


Binge Every Episode!

How to Make Medieval Cheese; Baking A Medieval Cheesecake – The History of the Sambocade

Dining at a Real Medieval Tournament

Dinner at a Joust

Medieval French Toast

History of French Toast

History's Most Expensive Spice: Saffron

Medieval Saffron

World War 2 Ice Cream of the US NAVY

Surviving on Leather

Captain Morgan Ate Leather?

Feeding a Templar Knight

The History of Ukrainian Borshch


Dinner with Attila the Hun

Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Chicken

A 4000 Year Old Recipe for the Babylonian New Year

Babylonian Tuh'u

Dining Third Class on the RMS Titanic

Semlor: The Dessert That Killed A King

Texas Chili & The Chili Queens of San Antonio


The Original Mai Tai from 1944

Trader Vic's

The Medieval Saint Diet

Saint Columba's Salmon

Macaroni & Cheese from 1845

Secret Foods of the Spanish Inquisition

Jewish Adafina

The Incredible Spiced Wine of Ancient Rome

Conditum Paradoxum

Toad in the Hole & the Cows of Scotland

Tasting History's Lost Episode: Prince Biskets

Tudor Prince Biskets

History's Real Macbeth

Macbeth's Feast

Unwrapping Aztec Tamales | The Tamale Wars

A Tart to Topple a King – Lombardy Custard

Richard II's Just Desserts

Debunking the Myths of Leonardo da Vinci

Armored Turnips

Skinny Monk vs Fat Monk: Medieval Rule Breakers

Eat Like a Monk

Feeding the Army of Roman Britain

Roman Pork & Apples

Feeding a Medieval Outlaw

Robin Hood's Pasties

Pirate Guacamole & Bumbo


Ancient Greek Olives – Gifts from A Goddess

Olive Relish

The History of Doughnuts

1803  2022

Feijoada – Brazil's National Dish


Anzac Biscuits from World War One

Rations from Gallipoi

The Marie Antoinette Diet

Let them eat Chocolate

Apple & Cheese Pie from 1553

The history of Apple Pie

Titanic's Second Class Experience

Raspberry Shrub – How to Drink Vinegar


Well, you get the idea.  I've run out of steam.  You can go find them all yourself here.  I got about halfway through.

The following are a few from the bottom half of the list that appealed to me in particular:

When Coffee was Illegal

The Women's Petition against Coffee

What did WWII Soldiers Eat?

S#it on a Shingle

Ancient Rome's Wonder Medicine: Cabbage

The Plague & the Four Humors

A History of Ketchup

1787 White Ketchup

The Noble Origins of Afternoon Tea

Victoria Sandwich

Japan's Edo Era Noodles (1643)

Japan & the Portuguese Barbarians

Japanese Sugar Egg Noodles

The Ninja Diet of Feudal Japan


The Poisonous History of Tomatoes | Pomodori Farciti all’Erbette (1773)

Samosas of Mughal India


Weird Cures for the Black Plague – Candied Horseradish

Ancient Nian Gao | Lunar New Year Cake

sticky rice cake

1000 Year Old Jalebi (Zalabia)

Payasam | Medieval India & Dessert for the King

Never complain that there's nothing interesting to eat.  And, if you're like me, you will revel, not only in the gustatory delights of these multifarious offerings themselves, but also in the fascinating names of the dishes and their ingredients.


Selected readings



  1. KeithB said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 7:25 am

    On NPR this morning they mentioned that an ancient still life fresco was found at Pompeii. It had something that looked like pizza, but because tomatoes and mozzarella was not available, it was probably just bread.

  2. Robert Coren said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 9:37 am

    In my junior or senior year in high school, our French class read Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, in the second act of which the relatively minor character Ragueneau, a pastrycook with dreams of being a poet, recites a recipe in verse for "Tartelettes amandine" (almond tartlets). One of my classmates adapted the recipe to produce a batch of quite respectable pastries, which must have involved some creative extrapolation and/or research, given that the recipe as given in the play is rather unspecific on such subjects as quantities of ingredients, oven temperature, and cooking time.

  3. Robert Coren said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 9:39 am

    According to an article in today's Boston Globe, the "pizza" in the Pompeii fresco is thought to be a focaccia with fruit and possibly some kind of pesto.

  4. Vance Koven said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 10:21 am

    Always happy to see multiple of my interests interact (the only good sense of "intersectionality" I can think of). I've been following TH for some time and have recommended it to my adult children as well. Max Miller does a great job in both the culinary and historical aspects of his channel.

  5. Paul Topping said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 10:27 am

    This reminds me of "Lobscouse and Spotted Dog" by Grossman and Thomas in which the authors try to recreate most of the dishes mentioned in the 20-volume Aubrey/Maturin series of books by Patrick O'Brian. It's described on the cover as a "Gastronomic Companion" to the books. Thankfully, they do stop short of capturing the little birds needed for Lark Pie. Recommended.

  6. V said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 11:37 am

    I've been following Max's channel sines the third or fourth video, he does his research well.

  7. V said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 11:45 am

    Just a minor nitpick, in the Attila video he uses an illustration from a manuscript about Khan Krum drinking wine from Nicephoros' scull, not related to Atilla.

  8. Richard Hershberger said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 12:02 pm

    Historical reenactors have been doing this stuff for decades.

  9. V said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 1:12 pm

    I think it's just that Max does with style.

  10. V said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 1:16 pm

    He's done collaborations with Ken Albala of Serious Eats also.

  11. KeithB said,

    June 28, 2023 @ 2:21 pm

    Paul Topping:
    That must be hard since one of Aubrey's favorite sayings is "Can it be et?".

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