Take a nice block of pecorino cheese, that wonderful stuff. Take it, and set it outside. Leave it, for barn-flies to lay their eggs in it, eggs that hatch into maggots. Once that cheese is filled with those maggots, bring it inside and eat it.

You're kidding, right?

Actually, no. This Sardinian treat, also called casu modde, can still be found in parts of Northern Italy. Not at your local restaurant or grocer though - this "food" is banned in the country. Those people that still want to enjoy it are forced to either purchase it on the black market - for about three times the price of regular pecorino, or make it themselves. OK, maybe calling it the "black market" is a bit of a stretch, as many regular markets have some tucked away, either ready to sell to a customer right there, or can get one for the next day. It's still considered a rare delicacy, and even some government health department workers secretly enjoy the stuff, and as a result, the ban is usually enforced only sporadically.

At least the name of the food doesn't try and cover what it is - casu marzu translates to "rotten goo", which is an apt description. The brown mass, after the critters - the larvae of Piophila casei - have gone to work, results in a fermented cheese with decomposing fats. The taste is described alternately as vaguely rotten and pungent, or as delicate and piquant, depending on the person. The cheese burns the tongue and throat when eaten. It's claimed to have both aphrodisiac and psychotropic qualities - one person, after his first time eating it, claimed to have a strange crawling sensation on his skin for days.

The cult food even has a proper way of eating it. It is usually wrapped in a thin piece of Sardinian bread, known as Pane Carasau, and you use your free hand to shield your face from the food. Shield your face? Yes - apparently, the wriggling larvae have a tendency to jump out of the cheese, and into the eyes with "ballistic precision".

There are people who like the cheese, but prefer it without the maggots. One method used is to seal it in a paper bag, and wait for the maggots to suffocate. Then the now wormless cheese can be eaten. Some cheese makers have even tried various methods to produce the same flavor and texture without resorting to maggots, but most versions are dismissed as imitations.

No casu marzu cheese has been partaken of for the creation of this writeup. Yet, somehow, I have that creepy crawly feeling going on all over my skin. *shudder*

"IT SURE IS A SCIENTIFIC WORLD! Maggot Eaters of Sardinia", The Portland Mercury, http://www.portlandmercury.com/2000-09-14/scientific.html
Oregon State Food Resource, http://food.oregonstate.edu/ref/dairy/trofimov.html
Casu modde cheese, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casu_modde_cheese

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