As anyone searching online for the best way to bake a potato – only to scroll through someone’s ode to fall, farm markets and an aside about a childhood pet before getting to the directions– can tell you, every recipe has a story. It just may not be very interesting. That said, should you want to know about my one-eyed rescue cat who loves my scrambled eggs and how I prepare them, feel free to reach out.
Tasting History with Max Miller is a YouTube channel with recipes and the stories behind them, which are truly interesting. Max, who dreamed of a Broadway career before discovering The Great British Bake Off, arrives every week with a 20-ish minute video showcasing two of his great loves: food and history. First he introduces the drink or dish and tells us a little about its origin. Then he demonstrates the process of its preparation in his 1950s-style kitchen.
While we imagine it baking, cooking, or fermenting, Max shares the history of the food, what people of the time said about it, and perhaps some of their biographies. Sprinkled throughout are pictures and bits of animated text. In a recent video Max used the cookbook put together by wives of the guards at Alcatraz Prison to prepare a full meal, discussed the warden’s rehabilitation philosophy and described the daily life of the inmates. Surprisingly, they ate pretty well and the apple dessert is something I might try.
Other videos go back to ancient times. What did the soldiers of the Ottoman army eat? How did they cook it? Even if you don’t want to eat like a Roman gladiator (trust me, you don’t), or get sick at the idea of Civil War sweet potato “coffee,” Max makes it interesting and entertaining. But even he can’t make hardtack delicious. Sometimes he has to skirt around a few unsavory details because human history is littered with depravity but, much like his kitchen, the videos are pretty clean.
From Abraham and Sarah entertaining angels with bread, beef and cheese, to the unity we find with believers all over the world in celebrating the Lord’s Supper today, food has always been an essential element of hospitality and bringing people together. The Passover seder and Thanksgiving dinner are ways we come together to remember the past. Perhaps by tasting history we can develop a greater appreciation for our ancestors and the people in far-off places still preparing ancient traditional foods. Yet it’s that future meal, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, when we will be in perfect harmony with God, which I anticipate most.
In the meantime, I take four eggs and scramble them over low heat in a pan with bacon grease, stirring every few minutes. Salt to taste. After they’ve reached the desired consistency, I set aside two tablespoons to cool and serve to the cat. (YouTube)