Maggot cheese that tries to eat your eyes

Casu marzu is an illegal Sardinian cheese that is served riddled with writhing maggots that try to jump into your eyeballs as you eat it.
Casu marzu is considered toxic when the maggots in the cheese have died. Because of this, only cheese in which the maggots are still alive is eaten. When the cheese has fermented enough, it is cut into thin strips and spread on moistened Sardinian flatbread (pane carasau), to be served with a strong red wine.[6][7] Casu marzu is believed to be an aphrodisiac by local Sardinians.[1] Because the larvae in the cheese can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimetres (6 in) when disturbed,[5][8] diners hold their hands above the sandwich to prevent the maggots from leaping into their eyes.[3] Those who do not wish to eat live maggots 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.[9]
Casu marzu (via William Gibson)

(Image: Snob food.jpg, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike photo in the Wikimedia Commons, uploaded by Shardan)


  1. Hard to see the maggots in a static photo. As for your eyes getting eaten, don’t most maggots only eat dead flesh?

  2. I think if confronted with the situation of being served this “delicacy” I would instantly be converted to veganism.

  3. Soupisgoodfood- there are botfly larvae that gestate inside a living host…

    I’ve eaten live meal worms and enjoyed them, but I’ll skip this cheese if it’s ever offered to me.

  4. I could not possibly enjoy the taste of anything enough to brave live, *jumping* maggots. How might this food have become a desired taste?

  5. You should’ve had some sort of a warning so those of us who instantly imagine anything we read might’ve avoided reading that awful description of this! Argh! I’ll never be able to un-read that!

  6. Bugmaker: Would those botflys ever settle for cheese or other dead stuff? Either way, I’d still pass on this, too.

  7. And I thought some of the ultra aged limburgers we have here in Wisconsin were extreme. I really, really want to try this despite all of my faculties of good sense screaming otherwise.

  8. Soupisgoodfood, I think they like a warm place to grow, and would skip the cheese. Don’t ever google images of botfly larvae like I did.

    As for the maggoty cheese, something about the jumping is truly revolting….

  9. Takuan- I recommend the book Man Eating Bugs. It’s a favourite of mine, and a great reference for my lectures. Entomophagy! Say it kids!

  10. The best part of the article, which wasn’t quoted, is:

    ‘The larvae have powerful mouthhooks which can lacerate stomach linings or intestinal walls as the maggots attempt to bore through internal organs.’

  11. It gets worse:

    “Piophila casei larvae are very resistant to human stomach acid and can pass through the stomach alive, taking up residency for some period of time in the intestines and causing stomach lesions and other gastrointestinal problems.[11][12] The larvae have powerful mouthhooks which can lacerate stomach linings or intestinal walls as the maggots attempt to bore through internal organs.[5]”

    Who in the hell would eat this?

  12. Oops, Oldtaku. Looks like you beat me to it. In my defense your comment wasn’t there when I started posting :).

  13. I think I’d be one of those people who would suffocate the maggots before consuming this cheese.

    Not for health reasons mind you, but out of hatred and fear.

  14. Why the emphasis on the worms jumping for your eyes? Surely they wouldn’t know the difference.

    Anyway, a while ago I submitted casu marzu as a suggestion for’s Iron Stomach Challenge wherein they eat gross things for your amusement. I doubt they’ll be able to get a hold of this cheese but it’s worth a shot.

  15. “pitter-patter”

    Love that gratuitously disgusting onomatopoeia. The authors must have loved writing this entry.

  16. “I need a twisted unicorn chaser after all the gaza info…”

    Didn’t ever suspect the post title could be literal. Gotta be the best title ever.

  17. “Casu marzu is believed to be an aphrodisiac by local Sardinians.”

    This is the secret to all disgusting foodstuffs. Men who think that eating rotting gross crap will rejuvenate their failing sex lives.

  18. There’s also a maggot cheese in Corsica, off the coast of France, and there’s been much upset because the evil EU guys in Brussels are trying to make it illegal.

    The worms in that one don’t go for your eyes, though, from what I’ve heard. (I’m pretty fearless about French cheeses, but I draw a line at maggots, so I wouldn’t know from experience).

    It’s a tradition to eat it on one’s wedding night (because dry heaves are just soooo sexy).

    There’s also a joke about people who like it being so lazy that they wait for the food to come to them.

  19. Oh dear, my dad had some of this at a restaurant in Sardinia a few years back:

    We were getting along very well with the owner, and when it came to the dessert, he said that we might appreciate a certain local speciality. He called it “walking cheese” and said that they weren’t allowed to sell it anymore, but he had it all the time.

    Curious, my dad agreed. A few minutes later, the owner could be seen leaving the restaurant through the front door, and coming back with what looked like a small green compost bin.

    Eventually, the dessert was served. (My mother and I had ordered more ordinary fare.) The cheese looked disappointingly like any other strong cheese, and was very intense in flavour. But after a minute, the maggots started wriggling out…

    We had half suspected it might be something like that, so we weren’t particularly horrified. But my dad did stop eating it.

  20. Okay, look. I understand there are foods that I only think are gross because they’re from an unfamiliar culture. I get why someone might eat a bird fetus in an egg, or chicken feet, or whatever, even if I think it sounds disgusting.

    But this is…wrong. This is a wrong food to eat. This goes against every evolutionary drive I can imagine. You’re just not supposed to eat a dish that involves insects actively trying to eat you. You’re just not supposed to do that.

  21. It’s actually rather nice. I attended a wedding in Cagliari some three years ago and they proudly served this cheese. They’d had a hard time getting hold of one since they can’t be sold in shops. You really need to know someone who knows someone to get hold of one. The larvae are so tiny you don’t really notice them. But then you occasionally se a little white dot shoot off your cheese slice, and yes, they really pack a thrust. I’ll admit though, that is weird.

    But its a good tasting cheese.

  22. Man, I knew about other maggot cheese, but I did not previously know that there was anthropophagous outlaw maggot cheese. And it’s a delicacy. My world just got a little bit better.

  23. How do you market something like this?

    “It’s the Yakov Smirnoff of cheeses!”

    “The Cheese that eats you back!”

  24. @ 27: Lauren O, not often do I laugh at the BoingBoing comment parade, but “But this is…wrong. This is a wrong food to eat.” was damned funny. I LLOL’d (Literally LOL’d).

  25. when whales die, some puff up and float ashore, some sink. Few delicacies finer than a mature Blue tenderized by Eptatretus Polytrema. Three months is best. Manganese nodules on the side.

  26. The general tone of this post is funny but misleading, the Casu Marzu has been produced for tens of years in sardinia and if it was so dangerous I don’t think it could survive so long…

    Besides, Sardinia is asking the UE community to allow the production of this particular cheese because it has been produced for more than 25 years with a controlled procedure, and laws allows such derogation.

    Add to this that there are researches who doubt that the larvae could do such damage to intestine walls…

    On a different level, it’s funny for us Italians to see how a lot of products that have been done for CENTURIES are considered “suspect” from UE point of view… Also, for all american readers, remember that ORANGE chees DOES NOT EXIST :P

  27. Wow, seriously? Maggots… cheese… launch into eyes… pitter-patter….

    For the love of all that is good, UNICORN CHASER PLEASE.

  28. “Casu marzu is considered toxic when the maggots in the cheese have died. Because of this, only cheese in which the maggots are still alive is eaten. … When the sounds subside, the maggots are dead and the cheese can be eaten.”

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    EvilJim@19: “Why the emphasis on the worms jumping for your eyes?”

    Probably has to do with the fact that even with their razor-sharp mouthhooks, they can’t do much to exposed skin before you get annoyed and brush them off – but if one gets a direct hit on eyeballs, you’re in for a bad time. Kinda like wind-blown sand – it has to be pretty bad for the rest of your body to *really* care, but it only takes one grain in your eye…

  29. Oh sweet jesus. That is just… God damn. People will eat some crazy shit if you call it an aphrodisiac. I’m sorry, but I prefer my food not to a) be alive and b) have “razor sharp mouthooks”

  30. I’m reminded of a certain scene from Lost Boys involving future torture pinup Kiefer Sutherland.

  31. Perhaps there are different versions of this cheese around the island. Certainly, they don’t eat it with pane carasau where my parents are from, since a different bread, called poddine, is the staple there. In any case, I would watch my uncles and great uncles eat a cheese like this with a spoon, right out of the cheese rind, but I’m afraid I saw no leaping maggots, they were more sedate than that. Also, I suspect the strong wine that was consumed with the cheese had something to do with the fact that none of the more enthusiastic eaters had stomach or intestinal complaints. The one great uncle who ate the most was about 85 when he passed away. I draw the line at food that is still moving, though.

  32. When I read this post I simultaneously LOLed and gagged. Can’t say that’s ever happened to me before.

  33. I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever want to try this!

    At what point do you stop and say; “Hey, this might not be the best idea for food?!?”

    What’s next, foreign parrot shit on cheese sold as a delicacy?

  34. DO NOT WANT!

    I prefer to eat low on the food chain, but not in that particular branch. Fish and microorganisms please, hold the insect larvae.

    (Yes, I realize that humans SHOULD be eating bugs, but they have too many legs for me, and I’m sqeamish!)

  35. When I asked my Sardianian friend about this a few years back, she said she’d never had it, but it was the sort of thing granddads and crazy uncles would have at family parties, sneaking off to some corner of the house. Sort of like some people go off and sneak a bowl, I guess. It was not offered at her wedding, mercifully.

  36. This gives me an even greater appreciation for Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms:

    “Menocchio [the heretic miller] said: “I have said that, in my opinion, all was chaos, that is, earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed- just as cheese is made out of milk- and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels. The most holy majesty decreed that these should be God and the angels, and among that number of angels there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass at the same time …”

  37. I grew up in Italy and my father, while vacationing in Sardegna, ate this very delicacy. He still boasts to this day that it was very good and that the maggots taste just like the cheese.

  38. Talk about a counterproductive aphrodisiac. What could be worse that a combination of arousal and razor sharp mouth hooks?

  39. Now that’s being a locavore. Your animal protein can’t be grown and harvested much more locally than your plate.

  40. I’ve got a very high tolerance level for things that disgust most folks. After reading the entire Wiki entry, all I can wonder, is “why?” Not to mention, I’m not all that keen on the consumption of any creature that is still alive and moving. I’d think that might detract somewhat from the texture, if it keeps…wiggling. Or hopping.

    That said, I’ll try anything once where it comes to food…but I’d mash the Hell out of it with my fist first. No hoppers for me.

  41. Professor Massimo Marcone of Guelph University specializes in the chemistry — and in detecting the counterfeiting of — really, really exotic foods. There’s a nice chapter about this maggot cheese (and his adventures with people who make it) in his book In Bad Taste?: The Science and Adventures Behind Food Delicacies. The book is at

  42. @every one asking “OH GOD WHY?”

    As with most things of this nature, probably because its freaking delicious. (One would assume. I’ve never even heard of it.) I’d take the risk and try it. I’d wear some stylish goggles.

  43. How many Darwin Awards needed to be handed out before this thing caught on as a delicacy!? Some farmer goes to get his cheese from the pantry and as he looks closer at it to tell if its spoiled or no, BLAMMO!!! maggots leap from it to eat his bloody eyes!!
    His son who has become the man of the house now that his old man is an invalid kicks him aside and has a go only to suffer the same result.
    Next his brother cleverly snuffs the maggots and waits a day so he can get a shot at eating this rancid and maggoty wad only to be poisoned by the toxicity of this now deadly mass!
    Hearing about this dreadful tale from the bereaved farm maid, the neighbors decide there MUST be a way to get at this cheese and scientifically mix up a batch to impregnate with toxic eye snatcher-bugs and after blinding or killing half the village come to respect and enjoy this filth with a good bottle of wine?!!?? WTF!!!!!

  44. They hop o’er your plate
    And go as you please
    The little white jumpers
    Whom live in old cheese.
    Some people loathe ’em,
    And others don’t care
    If they swallow a mouthful.
    The truth I declare.
    They hop, twist and leap,
    And go as you please,
    The jumpers, white jumpers,
    Whom live in old cheese.

    Bellerive the Poet

  45. Just close your eyes and keep repeating to yourself: “It’s a directory of WONDERFUL things. It’s a directory of WONDERFUL things…”

  46. I eats my cheese w/ honey
    I done it all my life
    It may taste kinda funny
    but keeps da maggots on da knife

  47. I saw this on the Travel Channel or something once. I was pretty grossed out by it but I can understand that some people might dig it. I’d like to say I would never try it but I’ve said that before and been wrong. The segment I saw talked not so much about the jumpity maggots but the fact that the maggot poo makes the cheese all creamy/slimy and therein lies the delicious. It’s apparently not considered that awesome if the maggots haven’t pooed the thing all up. On second thought, maybe I really wouldn’t ever try it…

  48. Aphrodisiac? Yup. “Baby, there’s something in your teeth. Oh, it’s a squirming, cheese-coated maggot. That is so hot! I must have you this instant. Kiss me….”

  49. One sign you’ve been reading too much BB: Dreaming you have an open wound on your head the size of a silver dollar and you can’t find the jar of sea monkeys anywhere. They were right there a minute ago. Where in the hell are they…. oh…..

  50. I’ve eaten this cheese in Sardinia, in August. Before a huge chunk of the cheese was served, it had been left out under the sunlight for an hour or so, which caused all worms to leave. This cheese was 100% wormless when I ate it, though I myself had seen these nasties crawling out.

  51. This deli tray is UNACCEPTABLE!

    – Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus

    Who knew Dave Brockie would have a couple of relevant quotes?

  52. #78 Gaudeamus, …the fact that the maggot poo makes the cheese all creamy/slimy and therein lies the delicious.

    Well, you know where honey comes from …

  53. I was stationed in Sardinia for 5 yrs and this was a great cheese…..all foods in the USA are allowed a certain amount of rodent fecal matter, insect parts and hairs from various creatures, so take that into consideration b4 turning your nose up at this cheese….at least you know what your getting……

    I never heard of anyone who has had their eyes eaten by the maggots…..another urban legend run rampent on the internet

  54. (Yes, I realize that humans SHOULD be eating bugs, but they have too many legs for me, and I’m sqeamish!)

    Have you ever watched a Praying Mantis eat a fly?
    Very discriminating creature! They don’t eat the legs or the wings! LOL!
    As for me and my French blood, I will stick to good old rotten soft French cheeses including Limburg and a good red wine! Sometimes with wine mustard and good bread, please hold the maggots that eat your eyes thank you!

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