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Casu Marzu - The Maggot Cheese

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Do we need to wear spectacles while eating Casu Marzu – the Maggot Cheese?! - Enquired group of students to Prof. Hashimoto, who was talking about the maggot cheese. At first it seemed to be a joke but later on we could grasp the gravity of his talk.


 


We later realized that Casu Marzu is not any regular cheese and is also not found in regular cheese shops. You will have to travel to Sardinia in Italy to taste this maggot cheese. Casu Marzu translates to “rotten cheese” in Sardinian language. And Sardinians say that you are eating a good Casu Marzu if you could literally see thousands of maggots crawling on the surface. Casu Marzu is also called the walking cheese because it is embedded with thousands of dangerous walkers (Read maggots in this case).


 


Casu Marzu is prepared with Pecorino Sardo (Fiere Sardo) – a typical Italian cheese. Normally the Pecorino cheese is prepared by soaking the cheese in wine. The cheese is then smoked and ripened in the cheese cellars. The Casu Marzu is prepared by infesting the cheese with cheese flies. The cheese is allowed to rotten in the sunlight for many days before they arrive in market. These maggots multiply under the sunlight and produces enzymes which lead to fermentation.  The Casu Marzu is very soft and runny to touch, which is brought about by fermentation.  Mostly the maggots are infested in the cheese by cutting the rinds of the Pecorino cheese.


 


By now you might have realized the potential dangers of eating the live maggots. But that never stops Sardinians from raving about their specialty. Casu Marzu has been integral part of the Sardinian celebration since last 1000 years. The Casu Marzu emanates highly pungent taste which often oozes tears from the eyes and also burns out your tongue.  Some say that the creepy Casu Marzu resembles  Gorgonzola cheese-even without its blue veins.  Sardinians will tell you that that the Casu Marzu is okay to eat if it is packed with creepy maggots. If the maggots are dead then that means that Casu Marzu is rotten and is way ahead of their prime for the consumption.


 


It is considered to be illegal to buy and sell Casu Marzu because it does not comply with EU hygienic standards. It is banned throughout Italy, but sold in black market by small time cheese manufacturers. Although the maggots present in Casu Marzu can be digested by enzymes present in the intestine.  But there are reports about the hazardous allergic reactions associated with the cheese.  But the maggots reside in the stomach for little more time than expected. And can bore holes in the intestinal walls or bring out bloody diarrhea. But these health warnings have not stopped Sardinians to serve it during all special occasions. Some say that Casu Marzu is an aphrodisiac.  There are no scientific studies which support this claim.


 


Normally Casu Marzu is served with thin slices of Sardinian bread (pane carasau) and a strong, red wine called Cannonau. The Casu Marzu costs twice the regular Pecorino cheese. Some people tend to wear eye protection while eating the maggot cheese because the maggots may jump as high as six inches.  If you wish to go for Casu Marzu then shield your eyes with strong protection or hands. 


 


Image Courtesy: mentalfloss.com

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