It’s known as The Cheese that Crawls, The Maggot Mater, The Most Dangerous Cheese on the Planet, an unpronounceable series of consonants and vowels not meant to be spoken by the human tongue, or simply as Casu Marzu. Imagine if you will a cheese crawling with maggots. This may be easy to do depending on the state of the cheese drawer in your refrigerator, but now imagine that said maggot filled chunk of cheese is actually what you’re looking for to eat and not to throw immediately in your garbage. Not only that, but that this wormy mobile chunk of cheese is a delicacy sought after the world over for who knows what reason. I sit down with fellow Nachonomics contributor Dex Gormenghast to discuss this Mal Caseus with him.
DS: How are you doing Dex?
DG: Oh peaches and cream my friend, just sitting down and enjoying this lovely and story convenient block of cheese.
DS: Well that sounds pretty tasty. What you got there?
DG: Oh, just some classic nacho Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar, you know how I roll.
DS: Indeed, but you are open to trying some other kind of cheese?
DG: Definitely. I am open to anything involving any kind of cheese. EXTREMELY open.
DS: Casu Marzu?
DG: If that’s an actual cheese and not just two words you made up, yes, 100% yes.
DS: Oh it’sreal. Real full of real maggots that is.
DG: ...Wait, what, why?
DS: On the Italian island of Sardinia Casu Marzu is a local cheese considered a delicacy. You basically start with a Pecorino, then leave it out so that flies can lay their eggs in it, and then the maggots digesting and excreting the cheese makes it the special treat it has become.
DG: ...Wait, what, why?
DS: Historically humans consuming food that has previously passed through an animal at some point is nothing news, bird nest soup made from the spit and bile from birds or civet poop coffee for example, so why not a cheese that partially passes through the digestive tract of maggots to liquify?
DG: Can this get worse?
DS: If you even ask, you know it can. The maggots can also jump about 6 inches, and like to go for the eyes if you get too close.
DG: Jesus christ.
DS: And there is the possibility of them surviving until they get to your intestines, in which case they’ll start burrowing into you. But you won’t know that until about a year after you’ve eaten them.
DG: How is this biological weapon of a cheese even legal?
DS: Turns out it’s not, since some countries frown upon the idea of a food item writhing with maggots that can jump into your eyes being unleashed on their innocent and unsuspecting citizens. This hasn’t stopped a brisk black market Casu Marzo trade or Sardinians trying to get it declared as a “traditional” food so as to circumnavigate all those pesky food safety laws.
DG: I forsee one of those situations where it’s legalized and everyone who eats it in celebration immediately falls sick, like that whole raw milk thing.
DS: One can hope.
DG: I suppose it’s called an aphrodisiac like every other disgusting food people try and peddle?
DS: Oh you know it.
DG: It sounds more like something you think about if you want to remain flaccid forever. So I guess the question is how does it taste?
DS: According to Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern, "so ammoniated" that "...it scorches your tongue a bit." It also has an aftertaste that lasts several hours afterwards as a little goodbye present.
DG: Well I have always enjoyed the flavor of World War One trench warfare in my cheese. So is that from the maggots or the cheese itself?
DS: The cheese. The maggots are from the cheese fly Piophila Casei and are totally fine for consumption, with the exception of that they may survive unto your guttyworks and start eating their way out of you. The cheese basically goes beyond the normal fermentation that a cheese goes through to decomposition brought about by the maggots digestive system turning the cheese’s fats into a liquid known as “lagrima”, the Sardinian word for “tears”.
DG: Sounds like I’d be producing a lot of “lagrima” if you were to make me eat that.
DS: When you have thousands of maggots going to town on your cheese, you’re going to get a little goop action going on in there.
DG: So with all those maggots in there, how can I even tell if it’s gone bad?
DS: Typically the way to tell if your favorite regular cheese has gone bad is whether it’s full of maggots or not, which doesn’t help you out in this case. Fortunately the good news is that it is pretty easy to tell here. Basically if you open up the top of your Casu Marzu and find that all the maggots are dead that means it’s no good. If it’ll kill a maggot, it’ll kill you.
DG: Well that’s reassuring.
DS: Of course some people don’t like to eat the live maggots, so they put the cheese in a sealed bag until they run out of air. The oxygen deprived maggots jump around creating a pitter patter noise as they try to escape death by asphyxiation, which when you don’t hear than anymore is how you tell it’s ready, like a popcorn. So if you get one with dead maggots be sure to ask about that first so as to not create a cultural faux pa.
DG: Well I’ll be sure to do that when I never eat it.
DS: What happened to 100% cheese 100% of the cheese time cheese fan?
DG: What can I say, I like my cheese like I like my ladies, not full of maggots.
DS: Well that is incredibly inappropriate.
DG: Wildcard bitches!
At this point Dex began quoting It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia wholecloth, mimed dropping a microphone, and jumped out the window of the room, chowing down on his block of Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar the whole time as he ran off into the sunset. Nachonomics would like to apologize for the comments made by Mr. Gormenghast as they do not reflect those of Nachonomics, save for those made about the disgusting nature of Casu Marzu, as frankly that cheese sounds like it was wrought from the milk of The Devil’s own teats.