Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Weird food - Casu Marzu - Maggotty Pecorino

It is time for another weird food post again! From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casu_marzu retrieved 17 March 2010 Casu marzu (also called casu modde, casu cundhĂ­du, or in Italian formaggio marcio) is a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese, notable for being riddled with live insect larvae. It is found mainly in Sardinia, Italy. Casu marzu literally means "rotten cheese" in Sardinian, and the cheese is known colloquially as maggot cheese. Casu marzu is created by leaving large pieces of Pecorino cheese outside and letting it ferment. During the fermentation process, the eggs of the cheese fly Piophila casei are either intentionally introduced to the cheese, or a female Piophila casei lays her eggs in the cheese, sometimes exceeding five hundred eggs at one time. The eggs hatch and the larvae begin to eat through the cheese. The acid from the maggots' digestive system breaks down the cheese's fats, making the texture of the cheese very soft, as described. By the time it is ready for consumption, a typical Casu marzu will contain thousands of these maggots. Casu marzu is considered toxic when the maggots in the cheese have died. Because of this, only cheese in which the maggots are still alive is eaten. When the cheese has fermented enough, it is cut into thin strips and spread on moistened Sardinian flatbread (pane carasau), to be served with a strong red wine. Casu marzu is believed to be an aphrodisiac by local Sardinians. Because the larvae in the cheese can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimetres (6 in) when disturbed, diners hold their hands above the sandwich to prevent the maggots from leaping. Those who do not wish to eat live maggots place the cheese in a sealed paper bag. The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a "pitter-patter" sound. When the sounds subside, the maggots are dead and the cheese can be eaten. Several food safety issues have been raised in relation to Casu marzu, including anecdotal reports of allergic reactions and the danger of consuming cheese that has advanced to a toxic state. In addition, there is some risk of enteric myiasis, or intestinal larval infection. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhea. Piophila casei larvae are very resistant to human stomach acid and can pass through the stomach alive, taking up residency for some period of time in the intestines and causing stomach lesions and other gastrointestinal problems. The larvae have powerful mouthhooks which can lacerate stomach linings or intestinal walls as the maggots attempt to bore through internal organs. Because of EU food hygiene-health regulations, the cheese was outlawed for a while, and offenders used to face heavy fines. However, it was always possible to get Casu marzu on the black market, where it can sell for double the price of a regular block of Pecorino. Nowadays, the EU ban has been circumvented by using another EU regulation, and having the casu marzu declared "traditional" food (made by the same recipe for more than 25 years), and as the recipe is thousands of years old, it is therefore allowed to deviate from ordinary food hygiene regulations. The traditional method is even explained by an official paper of the local government. Gorgonzola, Stilton & Roquefort is as rotten as I'll go...

2 comments:

angel said...

Dude! This is real!?!?? I saw it in an Asterix comic book years ago but I didn't realise it actually existed!!

Tamara said...

*gags* I'm sorry, I couldn't get past the first few paragraphs without wanting to hurl.

I'll stick with cheddar and gorgonzola, thanks.