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Casu Marzu (aka Maggot Cheese)
Status: Real
Thanks to Mark Holah (aka Rennet) for bringing the Sardinian specialty known as Casu Marzu to my attention. Casu Marzu is a type of pecorino cheese infested with thousands of wriggling maggots. If the maggots are still wriggling, then it's okay to eat (if you have a strong stomach). If the maggots aren't wriggling, that means the cheese has become toxic. The wikipedia entry for Casu Marzu is so bizarre, that you'd swear it has to be a joke:

Derived from Pecorino Sardo, casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider to be decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly, Piophila casei. These larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese, promoting an advanced level of fermentation and breaking down the cheese's fats. The texture of the cheese becomes very soft, with some liquid (called "lagrima") seeping out. The larvae themselves appear as transparent, white worms, about 8 mm (1/3 inch) long. When disturbed, the larvae can jump for distances up to 15 cm (6 inches), prompting recommendations of eye protection for those eating the cheese. Some people clear the larvae from the cheese before consuming; others do not.

However, Casu Marzu is quite real. It's been described in a number of newspapers and magazines including The Wall Street Journal and Bon Appetit. Taras Grescoe recently wrote about it in The Devil's Picnic: A Tour of Everything the Governments of the World Don't Want You to Try.

Apparently Casu Marzu isn't even the most disgusting food Sardinians eat. According to a 2004 article in Australian Magazine, that honor goes to 'tordi':

These are small, 10cm-long songbirds that feed on the island's plentiful myrtle berries. They are netted and poached, then served cold, three or four at a time, garnished with myrtle leaves. Their eyes are black, haunting, their necks spindly. They look like a plateful of baby dinosaurs. You are supposed to eat them whole - everything but the beak - in a few crunches.

If one is going to try some Casu Marzu, I think the perfect drink to wash it down would be some Army Worm Wine.
Food
Posted by The Curator on Mon Apr 24, 2006
I have only one thing to say about this...

Ewwwwwwww sick
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Mon Apr 24, 2006  at  02:24 PM
I remember a while back when Fear Factor first came out that the contestants had to eat this maggotty cheese. Ick.
Posted by Saribellum  in  Another Time  on  Mon Apr 24, 2006  at  09:19 PM
That was just cheddar with mealworms, not this stuff.

It is worth noting that the cheese is, for want of a better term, utterly *RANK*. The smell does *not* come out of anything it touches. It is illegal to ship, store, or import it in many countries. People wanting a nibble of this stuff will smuggle it in with methods best used for heroin packets..

Personally, I think the civet-poop coffee is bad stuff, but at least that's been boiled..
Posted by Robin Bobcat  in  Californian Wierdo  on  Mon Apr 24, 2006  at  10:13 PM
Very topical. I've just been reading a book called Extreme Cuisine by Jerry Hopkins (available on Amazon). One that sticks in my mind is Balut - duck eggs that are halfway to hatching.
Posted by Louise  in  UK  on  Tue Apr 25, 2006  at  02:05 AM
That cheese is definitely NOT vegetarian.

As for Rennet's website, I love it. A great hoax in it's self. I'm sure there'll be many a person up in arms to save these poor little creatures being used for cheese making.

P.S. for those who don't know rennet is actually the inner lining of the fourth stomach of calves. Mmmm, much tastier!
Posted by Trotsky  on  Tue Apr 25, 2006  at  03:01 AM
Ive heard of Balut, it does not sound tasty at all, but I belive it is popular in the phillipines.

In Sweden they eat fermented fish.. they catch it, clean it and then stick it the sun in barrels for 24 hours .. then let it ferment until it "smells right" then they can it or eat it... Its called surstromming. Norwegians also have something similar Rakfisk... neither of which would be appealing.

I can hardly eat the fish that you get at the market because its not fresh... fish isnt supposed to taste fishy really...

My people eat something called Czarnina (well I dont eat it... my mom loves it tho) which is duck blood soup.

Its amazing what people have found edible... (even McDonalds... )
Posted by Emidawg  on  Tue Apr 25, 2006  at  03:55 AM
People are messed up. They'll eat anything, as long as it's trendy. Case - sushi.
Posted by Bill  on  Tue Apr 25, 2006  at  07:06 AM
im from the phils... yup balut is a delicacy but there are various types of baluts.. depending how many days old the ducks eggs are... the shorter the days, the less ducky it comes out.

i tried the youngest one.. its something kinda like hard boiled eggs. but i didnt finish the egg yolk since there were already feathers or something that already formed there.
Posted by tiffany  on  Tue Apr 25, 2006  at  09:34 AM
There are lots of things which we think are gross, but which were adopted as food by people in a much scarcer food supply.

There are also things which seem to be pure bravado or conspicuous consumption.

As Fozzie Bear says "One man's fish is another man's poisson."
Posted by cvirtue  on  Tue Apr 25, 2006  at  11:11 AM
This item really cries out for photos.

If that cheese smells even a tiny bit like any of the maggots I've encountered, I don't want it within five miles of me.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Cut and Shoot, Texas, USA  on  Tue Apr 25, 2006  at  04:51 PM
tiffany said:
"im from the phils... yup balut is a delicacy but there are various types of baluts.. depending how many days old the ducks eggs are... the shorter the days, the less ducky it comes out.

i tried the youngest one.. its something kinda like hard boiled eggs. but i didnt finish the egg yolk since there were already feathers or something that already formed there."

yckk! Vegetarians eat eggs because they were never alive. But this was alive, killed just as its life began. yck!
Posted by Ian  on  Wed Apr 26, 2006  at  01:17 AM
1. Did anyone see Tony Bourdain's program on the food of Viet Nam? Buffalo penis, pig uterus, half-developed eggs, deep fried insects of all sorts, snake's heart (stil beating)... . I think I'll stick to Singapore for my dining trips.

2. When I was ateenager there was a period in England when chocolate-coated insects were reasonably popular.

3. If Ian thinks eating eggs does not involve killing, he's not thought the process through. Every so often a bunch of eggs are allowed to be fertile and hatch: half the birds (the boys, obviously, in this femmy world) are condemned to immediate death. Nowadays they do it the 'kind' way by tossing them into a mincer; previously they just put them in plastic bags which they then sealed.
Posted by Michael at Haywards  on  Wed Apr 26, 2006  at  05:18 PM
i just finished a delicious bowl of spinach with salt and cracked pepper...only to find maggots in the saucepan afterwards...hope i have a strong stomach...
Posted by soho  in  Soho  on  Sun May 07, 2006  at  12:44 AM
I ate Casu Marzu while living in Sardegna. It was no more powerful than a really ripe blue cheese. And, there were absolutely no leaping maggots! As the Wall Street Journal article explained, the cheese is filled with the excretion of the maggots...the maggots are gone.
Posted by Karen Anderson  in  Seattle  on  Sun May 14, 2006  at  03:25 PM
If you think you've never eaten a maggot, think again! You'd be surprised to know in North America there is an 'allowance' of how many bug parts (including maggots) are allowed in say for example... a bottle of spagetti sauce! It's impossible to remove all of them from the food we eat!

On a side note, I ate a cooked mealworm before at a local museum during 'bug week' and bought lolli pops with scorpions and 'tequila' worms in them. I also ate choco covered bugs too... I lived to tell! raspberry
Posted by Synergy  in  Canada  on  Sun Dec 31, 2006  at  05:34 PM
the guy who said that "people eat weird things purely for trend ex: sushi" - you're ignorant.

So i suppose the Sardinians who invented Casu Marzu just did it to just "freak out people and be all cool and trendy 'n stuff", right?

yeah, screw the cultural aspect, its ALLLL just a freaky trend..

people living in the south decided to start eatin gator and turtle and road kill cuz it sounded cool
argentinian gauchos eat bull balls and various cultures eat bugs not for survival, but to BE COOL! yeah, cuz they all live down the street from a taco bell and there'd be no other reason to eat weird things than to just be cool.

wow, you're certainly a learn-ed fella, huh?!
Posted by Willy Jack  in  USA  on  Mon Feb 26, 2007  at  03:46 AM
It is not powerful than blue cheese
Posted by jasmine  in  1122 dessert inn and flamingo  on  Tue Jul 10, 2007  at  02:36 PM
Karen Anderson: if you ate "casu marzu" without maggots either it was NOT casu marzu or the maggots were dead.
If the latter was true, you were lucky not to be killed by it ;D.
Posted by Federico C.  in  Cagliari, Sardinia  on  Fri Oct 05, 2007  at  06:34 AM
Casu Marzu is compelling because there are these certain (Sardegna) underground folks who get some kind of enjoyment/satisfaction and/or ritual out of eating rotten cheese.

Some people are great hosts for bringing out an aged bottle of wine or whisky. If you are really hardcore with the boyz from Sardegna, they might celebrate fun times with maggot cheese. Maggots jumping 6 cm out of the cheese upon which you are nibbling. Yes! I want to do business with you so hell, let's eat some maggoty cheese!

I read about a wife of a Casu Marzu maker who put the cheese into a paper bag, sealed it, then all the maggots popped like popcorn and died. She said the "larvae" had made people sick.

Many people do not wash but rather leave their frying pans with a base coat of grease/fat for days or weeks. Maggots often infest that, but they are constantly cooked, so go unnoticed. People who have cooked in that manner and discovered an infestation of maggots in their bacon fat laden fry pan described the maggots as tasting "like gristle - crunchy" and given that they were dead, did not cause any disease to their tasters.

The Strange Society of the Maggot Cheese - calls to mind an artist who locks himself in a room with microbes, disease infested insects and such - may get infected, that's the art. Bioterrorist art, I believe it is called. His work makes a statement about disease and its research yet puts him in peril. Maggots can invade the intestine and cause some serious complications and death. The mealworms eaten on Fear Factor have no incidences of harm when consumed - in fact they are a secret ingredient in more restaurants than you would like to think, I am sure.

I guess Casa Marzu represents to its fans what is "forbidden" - you aren't truly aware of a taboo until you break it. They eat it largely due to the risk that it may kill them. Apparently it is served in many restaurants in Italy but it's all hush hush.

That it is a delicacy to some people is both frightening and fascinating.
Posted by Emma Peel  in  Honeymoon Capital  on  Thu Nov 08, 2007  at  06:32 AM
I don't want to try that. I'm not even sure if I want to see what I looks like!


Too bad I have to...
Posted by Peophin  on  Fri Jun 06, 2008  at  04:38 PM
My people eat something called Czarnina (well I dont eat it... my mom loves it which is duck blood soup. Well, i think It is not powerful than blue cheese. Good article.
Posted by hinduja  on  Fri Jul 18, 2008  at  02:21 AM
Casu marzu is a delicious cheese. Ancient and traditional it'not eaten because trendy but because tasty and pleasant, not by tribal but just common european, italian sardinian people.
Of course, you cannot eat it everyday! But sure it is safer than a lot of industrial products and cleaner than a mussel!!!

Cheers. Ops... cheese
Posted by Andrea  in  Sardinia, Italy  on  Fri Sep 19, 2008  at  03:00 PM
Frankly, all Italians are disgusting. They name many of their foods after gross things, i.e. Vermicelli(little worms), etc...
Posted by PardonMe  in  Texas  on  Sat Dec 26, 2009  at  10:55 PM
Give it to Mikey!
He'll try anything smile
Posted by kevisaurus  in  Florida  on  Sat Jan 16, 2010  at  03:33 PM
Casu Marzu is an excellent source of protein for my pet buzzards, and they love it very much! They are fat and happy bastards. Thanks so much!!!!
Posted by Dr. Death  in  grave  on  Wed Mar 24, 2010  at  04:13 PM
whether this is the same as eating raw sea cucumbers in some cultures the beach?
Posted by hai Pip  in  java  on  Wed Jun 16, 2010  at  10:53 AM
Maggot cheese is made everywhere in Italy and in other European countries, I'd like to know why retards are trying to associate it with sardinia.
Posted by WTH  on  Fri Oct 11, 2013  at  02:21 PM
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