Thursday, October 31, 2013


You're having another dinner party. Who knows, maybe this one will be normal? Maybe it's been long enough that people have forgotten that horrible incident with the jell-o salad. As you make small talk around the hors d'oeuvre you start to feel confident. Yes. This party will be normal. This time, your guests won't leave in horror and disgust. This time you won't be ostracized by the home owner's association.

But suddenly, your dear grandmama comes out of the kitchen carrying something she says is "from old country".

It looks like cheese. But it's altogether worse than cheese.

It's squirming. It can't be. It is.




And it's probably one of the most formidable cheeses in the world. Casu Marzu is native to the island of Sardinia, off the coast of Italy and is described as having an extremely potent ammoniated taste that lingers for several hours after eating. Such is the power of Casu Marzu that the European Union has tried to ban it's sale at least once. And why is that?

Because it's filled with live maggots, that's why.

You see, Casu Marzu starts life as comparatively innocuous Percorino cheese made from sheep's milk. The hard outer rind is cut open and the cheese is left in a cool, dark place. This allows swarms of cheese flies to come and lay eggs in the cheese's saucy depths. Because a female cheese fly can lay upward of five hundred eggs at a time, the Casu Marzu is likey to have several thousand maggots living in it by the time it's ready to eat.

The maggots actually eat the cheese from the inside out. The digestion of these thousands and thousands of maggots breaks down the fat in the Casu Marzu, resulting in the cheese's pungent flavor and aroma. It also results in a runny liquid called lagrima. This means that the sheep's milk is fermented once to make cheese then fermented again with the help of maggots. At this point, the cheese is basically decomposing.

And in spite of all this, people still have the audacity to call Casu Marzu an aphrodisiac.

It's considered unsafe to eat once the maggots have died (Because who wants to eat dead maggots? That'd be gross.). But the cheese can be refrigerated, which will kill them prematurely if you like. Or you can place a piece of cheese in a sealed paper bag. This will deprive the maggots of oxygen, which will then leap from the cheese to find air, which creates a popping sound. When the sound subsides, it means the maggots have died and you can eat your smelly cheese without worrying about maggots jumping at your face. And they certainly do jump, because if you prefer to eat the cheese with the maggots still inside they've been known to jump over fifteen centimeters when disturbed. So it's best to shield your face with your hand when taking a bite.

But either with or without maggots, Casu Marzu is typically served on flatbread with a glass of strong red wine, preferably at large family gatherings with lots of people egging you on.

Finally, like so many other hideous foods, Simian Mobile Disco has given Casu Marzu it's own theme song. Give it a listen.


linda said...

This has to be the most disgusting cheese I have ever heard about. It made me gag just reading about it. Thank goodness for chips and salsa!! Even starving people wouldn't eat that stuff. Thanks Tyler for giving me a gag reflex that won't go away because of the hideous picture in my brain. lol

Shadgrimgrvy said...

Once again I make food as unappealing as possible! Where shall I strike next? Is no one safe!?

Post a Comment