We are taught from a young age not to eat moldy food. Mothers constantly prevent their young children from eating unsuitable items, and if you’ve ever accidentally poured rancid milk on your cereal, you surely developed some awareness of the importance of use by dates. It goes without saying that when a plate of food is moving of its own volition around the plate, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
Maggots on their own, rubbery looking and notoriously squirmy, are one thing guaranteed to bring about great disgust to most people — with the exception, perhaps, of enthusiastic entomologists. Add maggots to food and perhaps even the entomologists will hesitate before diving in.
Casu marzu is a hard-to-find Sardinian specialty, a cheese whose name literally translates to “putrid cheese.” It is a Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese that is served full of live maggots. That’s right. The cheese is deliberately inoculated with insect larvae, which transform the cheese by consuming and digesting it. The acid from the maggots’ digestive systems break down the fat within the cheese, which results in a very soft, slightly liquidy texture that is highly coveted specialty of the region.
Once the maggots are no longer alive, the cheese is considered unsafe to eat, which is why it is always consumed with the maggots still squirming around. Once casu marzu has reached the desired stage of fermentation, it is traditionally cut into strips and served over moistened Sardinian flatbread (pane carrsau) along with strong red wine.
How do people go about eating cheese crawling with live maggots? According to Wikipedia:
“Because the larvae in the cheese can launch themselves for distances up to six inches when disturbed, diners hold their hands above the sandwich to prevent the maggots from leaping. Some who eat the cheese prefer not to ingest the maggots. Those who do not wish to do so place the cheese in a sealed paper bag. The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a ‘pitter-patter’ sound. When the sounds subside, the maggots are dead and the cheese can be eaten.”
Would you care for a maggoty cracker? I didn’t think so…
While casu marzu may be an extreme example, people around the world use all sorts of crazy techniques to make cheese. For 10 crazy facts about cheese, click here