: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about Bridezillas, musical theater, charismatic nerds, colorblindness, Lady Gaga, Salieri, and what you should be doing with your money. Hint: It is not investing in meme stocks! That's in a minute with Max Miller from Tasting History.
But first, I want to thank Jon and Justin from transistor.fm
for backing Follow Friday on Patreon. Transistor is an independent podcast hosting company with a simple, modern interface for uploading audio, distributing your podcast, and viewing analytics. You can also make as many podcasts on Transistor as you want for no extra cost, and you can invite additional users to access the show settings, upload episodes, view analytics, and more. Check them out at transistor.fm
I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, a podcast about who you should follow online. Every week, I talk to creative people about who they follow and why. This is a guided tour to the best people on the internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters, comedians, and more. You can get bonus episodes every week for as little as a dollar a month at patreon.com/followfriday
Today on the show is Max Miller, the host of the YouTube series Tasting History
. On every episode, he recreates a historic dish such as Korean flower pancakes
, Aztec chocolate
, or Parmesan cheese ice cream
. He also explains the history and culture behind each of these recipes. Here's a clip from a recent episode.MAX MILLER
: "So, it seems kinda weird, cheese in ice cream. Or rather, it seems like a flavor that would be made in some hoity-toity New York restaurant, like wasabi ice cream or garlic ice cream — both of which I have tried. But in the 18th century, they were more adventurous with flavors than Ben, Jerry, Baskin, and Robbins combined! And many of the weird flavors, of which we will speak, come from The Complete Confectioner by the Englishman Frederick Nutt, written in 1789. And that's where we get today's recipe, number 150: 'Parmesan cheese ice cream. Take six eggs, half a pint of syrup, and a pint of cream. Put them into a stew pan, and boil them until it begins to thicken. Then rasp three ounces of Parmesan cheese, mix, and pass them though a sieve, and freeze it.'"ERIC
: You can find Max on YouTube
, and Reddit
at @TastingHistory [and Twitter @TastingHistory1
]. He's also on Instagram
@tastinghistorywithmaxmiller. Max, welcome to Follow Friday!MAX
: Thank you so much for having me, Eric.ERIC
: I'm so excited to meet you. So I've been a big fan of the channel. You started just about a year ago, right?MAX
: Yeah, it's probably about a year-and-a-half almost. My first episode, I think, was February of 2020, just before the pandemic.ERIC
: I'm glad that someone had a good 2020. I love the videos you make. Frequently, you're covering such like unexpected things. Like I mentioned, the Parmesan cheese ice cream, things like that. So I want to know, before we talk about your follows, how do you find the foods that you're going to recreate? Are you just like poring through history books, looking for discussions of food? What's your process like?MAX
: Yeah. You know, it really varies from week to week. Sometimes … Most of the time, I go through my vast collection of historic cookbooks. The cool thing about the internet, too, is that so much of it has been put online. Things that were written during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and ancient Rome are now online and you could just go find them.
I pore over things and find these recipes, but sometimes, it's a little more convoluted because it's not an actual recipe. Like the Aztec chocolate, we only have mentions of how they made this from some of those Spanish missionaries and stuff. That always takes a lot more work, but also it's kind of fun because I get to play detective, you know?ERIC
: You get to improvise a little bit and kind of figure out what might this have been. Yeah.MAX
: Right. I mean, honestly though, with historic recipes, it's all improvisation because no historic recipe is what we would consider a proper recipe today.ERIC
: All right, well, let's find out who Max Miller follows online. You can follow along with us today. Every person he recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at followfridaypodcast.com.
So Max, before the show, I gave you a list of categories and I asked you to tell me four people you follow who fit in these categories.
Your first pick is in the category "Someone who makes you laugh" and you said, Charlotte Dobre. She's an actor, a singer, a comedian, and she's on YouTube @CharlotteDobre
. So, a lot of Charlotte's videos have her reacting to funny social media posts and comments. But talk about how did you first discover her channel and why does she make you laugh?MAX
: I honestly, it was really recent. It was maybe three weeks ago, four weeks ago. I was down at a writer's retreat with some friends and after I had been done writing all day, my mind was just fried. And so I kind of went onto YouTube. This thing popped up making fun of, or commenting rather on, bridezillas. And that's like, okay, this is "my brain can be checked out" kind of content. I ended up watching four hours of her videos in one sitting, before finally my friends came back to the house and were like, "What are you doing?"
And now, I mean, I think she puts out stuff at such a rapid pace …ERIC
: Every day.MAX
: … because like you said she's commenting. Yeah. She's commenting on other stuff. It can be done fairly rapidly, which is great for her. I've watched a lot of her stuff. One, I really like her style. She's funny and just really lighthearted and stuff. But also, there's a little schadenfreude to a lot of the stuff that she puts out, where it's cringe-worthy stuff. So her commentary on it is just fun.CHARLOTTE DOBRE
: "Nothing says classy like asking strangers to Venmo you money because you're getting married. Why not, right? 'Buy me a drink! You've never seen me or spoken to me. I'd probably cut you off on the highway, but buy me a drink! Why not?' See, this is the thing with entitled people: I think they've learned that if you just ask, and you pressure people to do it, they might just do it. But some of us have too much pride to ask people to do everything for us." (laughs)ERIC
: I don't know how she finds all the stuff she's commenting on. I assume some mixture of just meme accounts and Reddit and who knows what.MAX
: Yeah. At first, I was like, oh, okay, she went on to Reddit or whatever, but she puts out so much. I'm like, "Where are you finding all this?" I'm guessing people also send her stuff.ERIC
: Yeah, it's such a big—it's already a pretty established, popular channel. So people are just finding like funny things and screenshots to send her, things like that. So she has a very big, theatrical personality. I think you probably have to be, if you're going to be a YouTube professional reactor. If I'm not mistaken, you have a sort of theater background yourself. Didn't you used to be an actor in some sort of Disney production or something like that?MAX
: Well, I think that's also why I like her. I did work for Disney Cruise Line for a while, but I was also in New York for years doing musical theater and touring and working in the city doing theater. Everyone in musical theater, you know, pretty much everyone has a pretty big personality. So that's kinda what I'm used to. I'm like, oh, this would be somebody that I would hang out with. (Laughter)ERIC
: Yeah. Have you ever tried to make any sort of react-type video yourself?MAX
: No, no. That's not really what Tasting History is about.ERIC
: I feel like it would be an interesting muscle to exercise though, especially since you do have a performing background, and a video background.MAX
: Yeah. Definitely.ERIC
: It seems a very specific, a very, like, I don't know if you've watched the Netflix show, Never Have I Ever
. It's a high school comedy. And one of the characters is kind of a burnout who aspires to be a guy on YouTube who reacts to other people's reaction videos. I mean, this is a whole genre of video now, you know? It's a specialized skill.MAX
: It is. Especially to make it interesting because I watched some reaction videos where it's like, well, you're just telling me what I just watched. That's not a reaction. That's a condensing of information, even though I just had to watch the full piece of information, as well.ERIC
: So how often are you watching Charlotte's videos? Are you kind of like binging these in four-hour chunks? What's the right time and place, I guess, for these videos, for you?MAX
: Okay. So except for that vacation, I have not had a four-hour chunk of time since I started the channel. The only time really that I watch YouTube videos is when I'm getting ready in the morning, like brushing my teeth and stuff like that, or at the gym. That's about the only time that I have available. Those are usually when I watch them.
And what's funny, because at the gym, I have her on, but my phone is in my pocket. She'll comment on something, but you have to see it. So I have to like pull out my phone and try to look at what she's talking about before it's off screen. It's a whole thing.ERIC
: All right. Well, that was Charlotte Dobre. She's on YouTube @CharlotteDobre
. Let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone you'd like to be friends with in real life. And you said Vsauce
, which is a long-running group of channels on YouTube run by Michael Stevens, Kevin Lieber, and Jake Roper.
So, explain the sort of topic, for people who don't know, that Vsauce, that their channels cover, I guess a specific type of Vsauce video that most resonates with you, that you really are drawn to?MAX
: Yeah. So, I mean, gosh, so they are now multiple channels. But the original Vsauce, that's who I think of as Vsauce, like that's his name to me.ERIC
: Michael Stevens.MAX
: Yeah. I mean, I started watching him so early on that he wasn't even doing what he ends up becoming. But now, it can be science or history or psychology and [he] kind of does a little bit of a deep dive explanation of some aspect of that.
It's always kind of weird and interesting stuff. He just does a really good job at explaining it. He's very high-energy and interesting, but he also seems like he is that perfect kind of dorky where he obviously has a passion for it, but he's not awkward-dorky. I have a lot of awkward dorky friends too. I love them! But it's like, oh, you have that nerdy side to you, but boy, you should … probably can hold a conversation really well, and be great to hang out with.
That's the thing with YouTube is that you end up becoming friends with the person that you're watching, even though they don't have a clue who you are! And, you know, sometimes I'll get emails or messages and stuff where it's very comfortable the way, that they're talking to me. And I'm like, "I don't know who you are!"ERIC
: Yeah. They feel that they know you!MAX
: They know about that part of your life. But it's cool, as long as it's kept PG-rated, which sometimes it's not, then it's totally cool. But you do become friends. You feel like you're friends with these people because you spend so much time with them. There is that like desire to turn that into a real-world friendship someday, and be like, "Let's go hang out."ERIC
: As your friend, I just want to say, I think you have way too many Pokémon stuffed animals … no. (Laughs)MAX
: Just kidding. Of course not.MAX
: They mostly belong to my fiancé anyway.ERIC
: That's one of the things I realized pretty quickly early on following your channel. Wow, that's like a very strong commitment to the theme of the video, is that there's always a Pokémon.MAX
: Yeah. Oh, and you you've seen a sliver of what there is. There are so many in this house.ERIC
: But yeah, what you're saying about the type of videos that Michael Stevens makes on the main channel, Vsauce1, it kinda makes me think that he—this could just be like a YouTube persona thing, but he strikes me as the sort of person who would be like the uncle who would not get tired of answering a lot of questions from a little kid, if that makes sense? So like some of his most popular videos are "What if everyone jumped at once
" or "Is your red the same as my red
" or "Why are things creepy
These are really provocative questions and sometimes questions that may seem basic or that you wouldn't question … You wouldn't ask the question at first place. You might be embarrassed to ask and he's just like enthusiastically given you an answer. Yeah.MAX
: Insatiable curiosity. That is what he has, and I have that too. I've kind of always thought, well, everyone has that, but everyone does not have that. Most people are perfectly content not knowing, because it's exhausting being curious! (Laughs)ERIC
: Do you have a favorite video of his, or a specific one that you remember that's like, I don't know, a good, iconic starting place for new followers?MAX
: "Is my red the same as your red?" One, that's a great place to start; and two, it's one of those videos that I still often think about because I'm colorblind. I have red-green color blindness, but then I also have trouble with yellow and blue and purple and brown. Seeing somebody kind of talk about that, and how it can be different, even for people who aren't colorblind, it's like, "Yeah, now you know how it feels." So it's a very good video.ERIC
: Have you ever gone into the other, you said you mainly think of Vsauce as Michael, but have you ever gone into the other Vsauce channels? Anything from there that you remember seeing and liking?MAX
: I have, though off the top of my head, I don't remember any specific videos because often, I'll end up watching Vsauce and then end up on Vsauce3 or whatever. So I don't even—and I'm not sure, like when did I switch over? I find that on those, there's a lot more practical … I've seen some really interesting, like practical experimentation.
There was one, I can't remember. He was wondering like how much weight he lost from sleeping, like during sleeping and stuff. But he was staying at a hotel during that, so he ended up having to … he couldn't drink or eat anything. You lose weight when you breathe.ERIC
: You exhale. Yeah.MAX
: That's how, he was trying to do this experiment at a hotel. And the only … what is it that measures your weight? Scale! The only scale was a luggage scale that they had in the basement. He asked the permission to use this luggage scale. It was funny. I think that that was on one of the other channels? But I'm honestly not sure.ERIC
: I was just looking a little bit at the other channels, at Vsauce 3, and there's a series that I can totally see myself getting obsessed with. I don't currently follow any of these three channels, but I was looking at Vsauce 3, they have a series called "Can You Survive The Movies
?", which is, that is right down the center of the stuff that I'm going to get obsessed with. It's like mixing science with what happens in "Jurassic Park"? What happens in "Top Gun"? Can you survive this?MAX
: Well, that's the thing with being curious is there is no end. There could be a Vsauce 20 that covers like this specific genre. There's no end to it.ERIC
: Well, that was Vsauce, which is a collection of three channels, maybe 20 in the future, on YouTube: Vsauce1
, and Vsauce3
. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Max Miller from Tasting History.
It's time to give a shout-out to the Patron of the week, Amy, who just started supporting us at patreon.com/followfriday
. When she did, she got exclusive bonus follow recommendations from our recent guests. And in a few days, she's going to get a bonus recommendation from Max Miller as well, and let me tell you, it is one of the weirdest, silliest accounts we've ever talked about on the show. Stay tuned until the end of this episode to hear a preview of that minisode. But in the meantime, you should be like Amy and all our other amazing patrons. Go to patreon.com/followfriday
and back us at whatever level you want, starting at just one dollar a month. That's patreon.com/followfriday
Welcome back to Follow Friday. Max, I asked you to give me someone who's an expert in a very specific niche that you love. And you said the YouTube channel, Early Music Sources
, which is hosted by — I'm probably going to get his name wrong — Elam Rotem. This is a great pick. I had never heard of this channel, but I can immediately see how someone could become obsessed with it, like you were saying, infinite curiosity. Explain what you like about Early Music Sources.MAX
: My background is in music and, specifically, early music. I love Renaissance, Medieval, and early Baroque music, kind of going up to like 1750. And especially before Bach — really, before Monteverdi and Palestrina — but before Bach, music was different. It really has not changed. Music has not changed much since 1750, from a structural perspective.
Obviously, Lady Gaga and Salieri, very different-sounding, but structurally, they are the same. Whereas before Bach kind of standardized this — and some people say that it was Bach, but it's that time period. Before this became standardized, it was a lot more fluid and really was different from location to location and time period of time period. Just as we can immediately identify why a Japanese piece of music is very different from a Western piece of music, because they use a different scale.
That kind of difference was all happening before the mid-1700s. And he talks a lot about that and deep dives into some of these very specific composers and pieces of music to talk about the form and what was going on historically that happened with the music of the time and how it affects, then, our music later on.
I say "our" music today, but very often, I'm talking about our music today being 19th century classical music, which is modern music to me. (Laughter) It's just fascinating. It's like you already kind of have to know about music because he doesn't dumb—I don't want to say he doesn't dumb it down. He doesn't explain some of the fundamentals. If you've had a couple years of music theory, you're going to enjoy this a lot more, I find. Though he does do a good job of explaining, like anyone could watch it and enjoy it, but if you have a music theory background, you'll enjoy it a lot more.ERIC
: But he's not playing like the YouTube algorithm game where he's going with the most appealing titles. I've written down some of his titles here, "The Rule Of The Octave" or "The Art Of Diminution In The 16th Century". It sounds very academic, even though his videos, I've watched a little bit of them and I tried to understand as much as I could. He's a very good communicator, very clear, very good animation, good editing. He's doing all the high-production stuff that all the best YouTube folks do. He's talking about a very, as you say, a very niche, specific area here.
The thing you mentioned, about the fact that music basically, in the west, stopped evolving at a certain point or evolved into its current form, you know in the 1760s. Do you know from his videos or from your own education in music from the past, why did it stop at that point? What was the thing that made it change, or made it stick there I guess?MAX
: I don't entirely know. I mean, I would think that it would have something to do with the kind of the codifying music theory at that time. Kind of post-Bach, every composer was taught the same music theory and was taught "this is how you write music." And then what makes those composers special is when they break those rules, but they know the rules, you know?ERIC
: There were specific rules to be broken.MAX
: And there still are. And you'll hear, the same rule that applied in 1760 applies today. When you hear a certain cadence, which is kind of going from one chord to another, some will create kind of an agitation in you and you don't know why, but it's there. And it was there then. Or something is more satisfying and sounds like it should be the end of something.
And it's because they made it that way. It's not because we, as humans, all hear it that way because other time periods and other cultures did not hear it always that way. It's because of those rules that we hear things the way that we do. Now, we think of minor — minor keys —kind of as being spooky and scary, or foreboding.
But before that kind of shift, that minor was thought of as grand, and kind of that pomp, and that died away. That changed. So it's just interesting to see that fairly quickly in the matter of a century, for things to really solidify and not change. Like I said, obviously music today is very, very different. It has evolved, or devolved.ERIC
: No offense to Lady Gaga, but…MAX
: No, definitely not. I love me some Gaga. But there are certain rules that have not changed.ERIC
: So as I mentioned, Elam's videos are very well edited, lots of text and animation and things like that. But his release schedule is kind of the opposite of Charlotte's where he's sometimes taking several month breaks. And you're in the middle. You're putting at least one video every week. Is that right?MAX
: Every Tuesday.ERIC
: Every Tuesday. So like when you're making your videos, how do you decide where to focus your time? I mean, you mentioned earlier that you've been very busy, basically since the channel launched. How do you decide where to spend your time, when you've got a release scheduled like that?MAX
: Typically, and I've gotten better at it, knowing how long a video is going to take me to put together… because the editing tends to take the same amount of time. All my videos are roughly the same length. Some are a little bit longer. They go up to about 19 minutes. The shortest ones now are like 14 minutes.
Editing takes about the same. Cooking and actually filming, I just allot an entire day for that. Whether it takes two hours to cook or seven hours to cook, it's all in one day. Really, what makes the difference is, how long does it take me to do the research? And that can be 10 hours or 40 hours.
Well, if I'm spending 40 hours just researching each video, I'm not putting out a video every week. I've started to kind of like … I'll plan an entire month of videos and be like, "OK, this one, I know enough about this dish. I know what history I want to cover. I can bang this out in six hours of research." Whereas the one I'm working on today, I know zero about. And so it's a little bit more of a slog.
However, I actually enjoy making those. Not during the process always, but kind of near the end while I'm writing the episode. I have enjoyed that more because I've learned so much, and that's what I like doing.
There's nothing more that I love than learning. And that's kind of what this channel is. So often, what I am telling people and teaching people on the channel, I only learned a week before. It's not like I have this—I have a lot of knowledge, but most of it is coming at a very rapid pace. I'm always kind of one step ahead of the viewer.ERIC
: It's kind of like the expression, "I don't like to write. I like to have written." It seems like you like to have researched sometimes and you're just excited to share whatever you've learnedMAX
: Yeah. I mean, I love the research process once it gets to a certain point. But very often, the beginning of the research process, it's like walking into a pitch black room. You don't even know what's there, so you can't focus on anything, because everything is in the dark. You'll turn on lights and be able to see things, but nothing is interesting.
There's a lot of not-interesting stuff out there. And so finally, you click on the light and there's something interesting. And then it's like, "Oh, now I can go down that rabbit hole!" That's the exciting part.ERIC
: Absolutely. All right. Well, that was the YouTube channel, Early Music Sources
, which you can also find at earlymusicsources.com
We have time for one more follow today. I asked you for someone you've followed forever and you said Graham Stephan, who is on YouTube at GrahamStephan
. This one was pretty surprising to me because he's a real estate agent and an investor. I was expecting more history, more food, more something like that. So talk about how did you start following Graham, and what made you stick around?MAX
: So I've actually always been a personal finance dork. I love learning about tax law and stuff like that.ERIC
: It's just always been — insatiable curiosity! Everything, like the history of economics, I find interesting and stuff like that. I actually found him while I was kind of studying—I wanted to buy a house here in L.A. and that's a process. That's when I found him. And I think when I found him, he probably had, it was under 50,000 subscribers. Now, I think he's at like 3.2 million or something like that.ERIC
: Three million. Yeah.MAX
: When I found him, he was still very, very new and had just started to realize that he could talk about things other than real estate. While I found him talking about real estate, what actually made me really interested in what he was teaching was … he, in his early videos, was kind of documenting his process in creating a YouTube channel — what he was learning about how to format a video, how to produce a video. Meaning like, all the technical aspects and stuff, and doing it on the cheap, because he is frugal. Wonderfully frugal.
He has millions of subscribers. He still does all of his own editing and he does it on iMovie. I still use iMovie. He was a great teacher and he actually ended up coming out with a course on the YouTube basics
. And it was basically everything he had talked about, about YouTube, condensed into one place.
And I bought and watched that three times through in the month leading up to actually starting the YouTube channel, starting Tasting History. I give a huge amount of credit to what I learned from him. He was able to take a topic that isn't necessarily interesting to most people—personal finance—and make it interesting.
He's funny. He is engaging. He tells things, very complex ideas, in a fairly digestible manner, which is kind of what I'm trying to do with Tasting History. The way that he talks about stuff is just—I don't exactly know where I'm going with this. Have you ever gotten it halfway through a thought, and totally forgot what you're talking about?ERIC
: No, but you said he inspires you. I was thinking like he maybe inspiring you on the personal finance side, but no, really he inspired your whole, your new career really on YouTube.MAX
: Yeah. I mean, he does inspire me on the personal finance side, too, because gosh, on YouTube and TikTok and Instagram and everywhere, there are a lot of finance gurus who are just trying to get money from you, or just don't know what they're talking about. They want you to get rich quick, that kind of thing. He is not like that. He is boring personal finance.ERIC
: In the best way.MAX
: In the best way. He's realistic and put your money into a S&P 500 kind of thing. But you learn so much. In the basics, you learn so much that he's been invaluable. He's also made it so that while my channel is growing, I am able to kind of start taking advantage of some of the personal finance stuff that he taught about. (Laughter)ERIC
: It all comes full circle. Yeah. So you mentioned you called yourself a "personal finance dork." Do I have the quote right there?MAX
: I think so. That sounds about right.ERIC
: There's been a lot of crazy finance stuff this year. There's the Gamestop/Gamestonk thing, Dogecoin, NFTs. Do you follow all of that stuff closely? Are you more focused just on the "boring" side of things, for yourself?MAX
: So from an entertainment perspective, I do follow that stuff. This is another thing I listen to at the gym, because it's kind of just noise that I can take in. I have trouble listening to historical stuff at the gym because I need to concentrate on that stuff. This stuff, not so much. I can learn about that.
And that's the nice thing about Graham is, he covers all of that, but does not participate in any of that stuff. He's more on the boring side in actual what he'll cover, but he talks about all of it, everything in the finance world.
It's interesting stuff. It's a very interesting time with kind of the rise of Robinhood and the democratization of the financial industry. It's a very interesting time. But it's also a very dangerous time because you only see the survivors. There's a huge amount of survivor's bias in it. "I made this much money on AMC stocks" And it's like, "Well, yeah, but those 10,000 people lost money." He covers all of that very well. That's why I like him.ERIC
: Yeah, as you mentioned, there are so many hustlers and grifters and all this stuff out there, who are talking about personal finance, so just hearing that he is more sober and responsible about this stuff. That is a huge endorsement I think in his favor.MAX
: He's somebody that anyone could watch and learn something from, I think. A diamond in the rough, which is I think why he's grown so big. I mean, he's now at the top of his, at least of the YouTube finance spectrum, in just a few years. He's good about protecting his brand and not misleading people. And you know, he's not out for a quick buck.ERIC
: That was Graham Stephan, who was on YouTube at GrahamStephan
. And now, here's a preview of Max's bonus follow, which is coming soon to the Follow Friday Patreon.MAX
: He's totally in costume and he plays this wonderfully flamboyant medieval peasant who … It's hard to explain what he does. But he makes medieval history really, really funny because, obviously, the characters he has created are not period characters. [But] a lot of the stuff that he talks about is perfectly historically accurate. You can tell he loves medieval history.ERIC
: The full minisode will be dropping next week at patreon.com/followfriday
, and you can get it by pledging at any amount, starting at just $1 a month. Max, thank you so much for sharing your follows with us today. Before we go, let's make sure our listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?MAX
: So the best place is YouTube, youtube.com/tastinghistory
or on Instagram, which is @tastinghistorywithmaxmiller
: Well, follow me on Twitter @HeyHeyESJ
and this show on Twitter
@FollowFridayPod. Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie
. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan
. That's all for this week. This is Eric Johnson, reminding you to talk about people behind their backs. And when you do, say something nice. See you next Friday!