The world of cheese is a strange one. Those who like to indulge in a bit of the – often smelly – dairy product from time to time will know that the range of varieties and tastes is almost endless. Some are white and fresh, others blue and pretty decayed. And depending on the state and milk that was used, the smell can also become quite present. Making some people absolutely disgusted just by the thought of it. Yet if you’re already repelled thinking about ripe cheese, we’ve got some news for you: it gets worse. Way worse.
Of course, now you’re thinking: ‘What in the world can be worse than bluely veined, hairy cheese? Well, the maggot-infested one. And yes, that does exist. It’s actually a local delicacy in Sicily and called casu marzu. And it was named the world’s most dangerous cheese by Guinness World Records in 2009.
1. From egg to fly
We’re aware of the fact that all of this sounds a bit strange and that it calls for a word of explanation. Of course, the maggots have to get into the cheese in the first place. This happens thanks to the cheese skipper flies, or Piophila casei, who lay their eggs in cracks in the cheese. The cheese used in Sicily is often the fiore sardo, a salty variety of pecorino. Once the eggs hatch, the maggots eat their way through the cheese, transforming it into a soft and creamy one. Once this process comes to an end, the cheesemonger cracks open the top and scoops out the cheese.
When it comes to eating the cheese, there are different schools amongst the locals. Some of them just eat it like that, whit the maggots wriggling in every possible direction, while others prefer to spin the cheese through a centrifuge in order to obtain a thick, cheesy mixture.
However you eat it, there are some things you should know beforehand. First of all, some like to point out the danger that comes with eating the delicacy. If the maggots would survive, they could create myiasis, micro-perforations in the intestine. So far, this has never happened but you never know. Secondly, some like to say the cheese has aphrodisiac properties, so be prepared… And thirdly, you’ll have to go local if you want to find some casu marzu, as it can’t be sold commercially.
Even though the cheese has been illegal in Italy since 1962, Sardinians have eaten and always will be eating casu marzu, ever since Roman times, according to journalist and gastronome Giovanni Fancello. Locals have now figured out the best conditions to obtain the casu marzu and even developed a way to preserve the cheese in glass containers, something that seemed impossible until a couple of years ago. And now that the world is looking into the possibility of eating grubs in order to feed its growing population, casu marzu could become even more attractive…