Max Miller’s ‘Tasting History,’ making mead and the library’s One Book One Community

March 1, 2024

In the spirit of engagement, for its One Book One Community read, the East Baton Rouge Parish Library has selected Max Miller’s “Tasting History,” a book that invites readers to do more than read by taking old recipes to the extreme.

Based on his mega-hit YouTube,  the book is much more than a cookbook as it explores 4,000 years of recipes — from medieval mead to hardtack, to hippocras, dillegrout and more.


Max Miller’s “Tasting History” is the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s One Book One Community read for 2024. The book sits beside a vessel of mead in the making, created by using one of the recipes in the book. 

Truth be told, I love an old recipe, especially one passed down from generation to generation (). Over the next few weeks, I’ll be attempting and documenting my efforts to try my hand at several of Miller’s historical recipes to share with you. Delving into the recipes Miller has researched and re-created has filled my head, heart and, hopefully, eventually, my stomach with all sorts of good stuff.

The EBPL will host a “Tasting History” kickoff party, that includes the Edible Book Fest, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 8 at the Main Library at Goodwood. Learn more about all of the festivities, including discussion groups, cooking classes, cooking demonstrations around the book at . The library has 214 copies of the book on hand and, as of March 1, has an unlimited supply of ebooks available on Libby for readers to enjoy.

Max Miller

Max Miller, author of “Tasting History”

A decade ago, Miller was not a cook or even interested in the kitchen. The warm and wonderful “Great British Bake Off” changed that. He liked the way Mary Berry explained the subtleties of baking. He appreciated the way the hosts would explain the history of a dish. 

He began baking at home and taking his cakes and pastries to the office where he worked at Walt Disney Studios on Mondays, where he would share the history of said baked item with his co-workers. One day, a colleague encouraged him to take his baking and history lessons to YouTube, which he did in February 2020. A week later when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he was furloughed from his job — and the rest is, shall we say, history. 

While the world was hunkered down and baking sourdough, Miller became an internet darling. He now has 2.2 million followers on his YouTube channel and his “Tasting History” book came out in 2023. 


Max Miller’s “Tasting History” is the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s One Book One Community read for 2024. The book sits beside a vessel of mead in the making, created by using one of the recipes in the book. 

Miller acknowledges that “re-creating historic recipes is a series of educated guesses, some more informed than others” and that his version of historic cooking “is less a matter of academia and more a matter of fun.”

He has optimized the recipes in the book for the modern kitchen. For example, he says that he doesn’t beat something by hand for 30 minutes when he has an electric stand mixer 3 feet away. 

The oldest recipe in the book is stew of lamb, circa 1740 BC Babylon, which likely included the fat from a fat-tailed sheep. Miller says the animal is exactly as one might imagine. He includes his favorite description of the animals, which was written by Herodotus in the fifth century BC:

They have…the tail long, not less than three cubits in length, and if one should allow them to drag these after them, they would have sores from their tails being worn away against the ground; but as it is every one of the shepherds knows enough of carpentering to make little cars, which they tie under the tails, fastening the tail of each animal to a separate little car. 

Miller goes on to explain that, even today, the tail fat as described so long ago, is still prized “as it tends to be less greasy than most other animal fat.” 


Jan Risher adds the honey to the boiling spring water to begin the process of making mead.

Since I didn’t have any fat from a fat-tailed sheep, I opted to bypass that recipe for my first attempt toward making one of the historical dishes. (In fact, Miller recommends that readers use a quarter-cup of rendered sheep fat in the recipe, with the option of using extra-virgin olive oil as a substitution.)

I opted for Miller’s version of medieval mead, circa 1300 England. As reference, he relies on instructions from Tractus Manuscript, Folio 20R that have a Canterbury Tales sound to them:

For to make mead. Take 1 gallon of fine honey and to that 4 gallons of water and heat that water till it be as length then dissolve the honey in the water, then set them over the fire & let them boil and ever scum it as long as any filth riseth there on…


With the honey added to the spring water, the mixture boils as one of the early steps in making mead at home. 

In fact, mead goes back long before medieval days — back as far as 7,000 years ago in China. Having read more than my share of tales about people drinking mead, I was curious as to what went into the process. As I gathered my ingredients, I realized that I needed a larger earthenware vessel than I had on hand. Fortunately, a friend loaned me one. 

Turns out, the process of making mead is not very complicated. Basically, you need four ingredients — spring water, raw honey, yeast and, finally, time, which turned out to be the trickiest ingredient of all for me.


Stirring the honey into the boiling spring water before pouring the mixture into the earthenware vessel to make mead at home. 

I needed to time the start of my mead-making (which takes at least a week) to coincide with the first cooking video we are making about “Tasting History.” Crunched for time, I ended up needing to start my mead after I got home from work but before I went to an LSU women’s basketball game. I had just brought the gallon of spring water to boil and stirred in a quart of honey, when I realized the error of my ways. Before adding the yeast, I had to wait for the concoction to cool to a low enough temperature not to kill the yeast.

I wondered if anyone had ever juggled the cooling of eventual mead with going to an LSU women’s basketball game.

Given all the parameters of making mead and the cleanliness required of the vessels, there was no rushing the cooling.


Jan Risher adds the honey to the boiling spring water to begin the process of making mead.

I calculated that the mead in the large earthenware vessel was, at best, going down 1 degree Celsius every 4 minutes. By the time we needed to leave to get to the game for tipoff, the eventual mead was at 70 degrees Celsius. I couldn’t add the yeast until it reached 35 Celsius. 

Angel Reese had to wait.

We missed the tip-off, but I realized at the slow rate of cooling, I could go to the game and be back to add the yeast before the mixture was too cool to activate the yeast — which seems to have worked.

I’m waiting now for the fermentation process to do its magic and I’ll try the mead in a soon-to-be-released video. 

All in all, the book and the information and engagement it offers, both in history and from a culinary perspective, have been a wonderful experience that I highly recommend.

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