Casu Marzu is eerie, very, very eerie. It’s a pungent cheese made from sheep milk and is left outside, uncovered, to rot. Tiny cheese flies infest the cheesy block and lay their off-spring, billions of small transparent maggots. The larvae feed on the cheese, thus causing fermentation and allowing the casu marzu to fully decompose into an eerie, stinky, creamy and highly sought after delicacy from the mountains of Sardinia. The moment I saw the sign above the door I knew what I had to do.
In the six years that I’ve lived in Sardinia, I’d only ever heard tales of Casu Marzu. I had never seen it – that is until I went to Mamoiada and found a house full of the pungent cheese. The line-up to get in was astonishing long and I had no patience to wait so I politely pushed my way to the front of the line.
I did bust out my Italian skills and asked each elder as I passed “Mi scusi. Io non voglio comprare il formaggio, vorrei fare una foto. Posso andare avanti a Lei?” They all looked at me and knew I wasn’t Italian, smiled and allowed the crazy-smiling-Canuck to go on. “Molto gentile Lei, grazie e buonagiornata.”
For many years casu marzu was on the European Union’s banned food list, and offenders faced heavy fines if caught producing the cheese. However, it was still available on the black market where it could sell triple the price of a regular wheel of pecorino cheese.
Today, the ban on producing casu marzu was bypassed, thanks to the researchers at the University of Sassari and a large group of farmers who developed a hygienic way to produce the cheese, and noted a way around the ban when they learned, if an item of food has been produced for more than 25 years, the food item is automatically declared a ‘traditional’ food and is exempt from the banned food list.
By the time I arrived at the casu marzu house it was finished. I didn’t see any jumping maggots but the smell inside those walls was sharp, peppery and eerie.
This is my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie
Have you tired casu marzu? Would you try it?
© My Sardinian Life/Jennifer Avventura. All rights reserved 2010-2013. All pictures, unless otherwise stated, are property of My Sardinian Life. Do not use without written permission.