Even though cheese is pretty disgusting when you think about what it is, most cultures enjoy eating the coagulated mammary secretions of hoofed animals. Even bleu cheese (which is little more that moldy fat) is considered good eating by a lot of people. But when it comes to cheese infested by maggots, most folks draw the line.
Not the residents of Sardinia. They go for casu marzu, a festering pile of rotten pecorino cheese teeming with squirming fly larvae. Stashed away in cupboards and under counters at open-air markets due to its contraband status, casu marzu is a cheese in which flies have been permitted — actually, encouraged — to deposit eggs. When the thousands of eggs hatch, the maggots eat the cheese and release an enzyme, triggering a fermentation process that causes the fat in the cheese to putrefy. By the time the cheese is ready to be consumed, it’s a gluey mass that creates a burning sensation in the mouth. Because the maggots will attempt to leap into the cheese eater’s eyes, conventional wisdom dictates that you should cover the cheese with your hand when you raise a piece it to your lips.
Squeamish casu marzu gourmands who don’t want to ingest live maggots can first place the cheese in a paper bag and seal it. When the maggots become starved for oxygen, they jump out of the cheese and writhe in the bag, making a pleasant pitter-patter sound.
When the sound subsides, that means the maggots are dead and the cheese is ready to eat. Read the rest