Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Casu Martzu: Maggot Cheese

Different cultures have different ideas of what is considered permissible to eat. What is kosher in one culture could be considered disgusting in another. There are too many examples of this to mention. Sometimes even the smell or description of a food which people in one culture consider a delicacy can sicken people from another culture. Some folks get on their high horse and accuse anyone who feels this way of being racist or intolerant or xenophobic. I don't think that's quite accurate. There are individuals with contemptuous feelings towards everyone who is not the same as them who nonetheless enjoy eating at a different ethnic restaurant each week. There are those who believe in all the wonders of multiculturalism who wouldn't be caught dead trying anything too far removed from their teenage palate.

I do know this, though. Although I enjoy many of the various kinds of Italian and for that matter Mediterranean cuisine I am not, repeat NOT eating any kind of food that relies upon the digestive and reproductive processes of flies to give it what some consider a wonderful taste. If I purchased some cheese from the supermarket and upon preparing to consume it, discovered maggots writhing all about inside, I wouldn't be very happy. And the store clerks, managers, and corporate bigwigs would hear all about it. But apparently if there aren't maggots in the cheese Casu Martzu, you just aren't getting your money's worth.

Casu martzu is created by leaving whole pecorino cheeses outside with part of the rind removed to allow the eggs of the cheese fly Piophila casei to be laid in the cheese. A female P. casei can lay more than 500 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; by the time it is ready for consumption, a typical Casu Martzu will contain thousands of these maggots.