This is one of those weird stories from my teenage years which is mind-blowing when you say it out loud but it almost feels unreal when looking back. A blurry and bizarre memory from times gone by. But let’s start.
I was on a family holiday in Sardinia, famous for its gorgeous beaches and clear water, when we were approached by a TV crew. The presenter walked up to us, with her camera crew behind and someone holding something dubious in his hands, slightly covered up.
She faced my mum and asked if we’d like to try a very special cheese and wine. I mean, what do you say when someone asks that? Hell yeah!
I was quite young, but a small dash of wine is fine, so both myself and my mum said yes, while my sisters looked less sure.
They begun to explain that they were filming for a science channel on German TV, if that wasn’t a warning sign I don’t know what is, but we were just excited to be on TV and eat a free snack!
Both myself and my mum ate a decent sized piece of cheese on a bit of bread, before following with the wine.
The second worrying sign came from the intense staring we got from the presenter and cast. After we finished the presenter asked us what we thought of the cheese. In all honesty, it was actually quite nice. The taste leaves my mind now, I can barely remember what I ate last week, let alone 15 years ago.
She then begun to explain that the cheese was illegal all over the world, however a group in Sardinia were rebelling against these rules, being the hometown of this cheese. It was predominantly being sold on the black market, as it didn’t match European legislation on food safety. Well then, this is one of those moments where our faces started to drop as we got a little more concerned.
She then got her support team to bring over the round cheese, that looked absolutely fine. He then removed the top, at which point we saw it was filled with maggots! Live maggots at that!
The feeling in our stomachs quickly switched to a sickly moment, where we tried to hold ourselves back from…Well, you get the picture.
Not that we were intensely listening at this point, but she begun to explain how the eggs would hatch and the maggots would then consume the cheese, before excreting it, making a softer cheese. We were eating maggot poo basically. No wonder it’s illegal!
Not that you need to hear this, but the maggots looked different to moth maggots, they were white and almost see-through looking.
So walking away, we could say we had our 15 minutes of fame. Except our fame was broadcast in Germany, onto a science channel, while we had to eat maggot cheese. I know reality stars sink pretty low to get their fame, but this was definitely a low point.
One final disgusting point is that many people wear eye protection when eating the cheese, as the maggots can actually jump up to 15 centimetres in the air!
Why Is Casu Marzu illegal
While the live maggots can make great tasting cheese, when the maggots die it can be very unsafe to eat. Not just that, some of the maggots can survive in the intestine, leading to a condition called pseudomyiasis, otherwise known as yukkyvitus (ignore me, I made that up).
How Do You Make Casu Marzu?
The cheese actually comes from Sardinian sheep milk cheese. You leave it out in the open, so it can attract cheese flies. They will lay their eggs in the cheese and once they hatch, the maggots will start to eat the cheese. This makes the cheese ferment, decomposing the fats. By the end of the process, there are normally over a thousand maggots in the block of cheese.
What Does Casu Marzu Taste Like?
It’s a soft cheese, but not quite as soft as Philadelphia spread cheese. It does have quite a pungent smell and taste, but not unpleasant.
What Do You Serve Casu Marzu With?
It is traditionally eaten on the Pane Carasau, which is a traditional Sardinian bread. It is also traditionally served with red wine, probably to get rid of the taste of maggots in your mouth.
What Does Casu Marzu Actually Mean?
Casu Marzu means ‘rotten cheese’ which completely makes sense. It isn’t however always called Casu Marzu and sometimes comes under different names like casu cundhidu.