Weird food, tripey goodness, and cheese with a bonus

I’ve been idly following a mailing list thread which has, in the time honored way of all the very best discussion topics, morphed from the initial subject (dog food) into something completely different (What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten, or wouldn’t eat, or freak out when thinking about?).

It started with the basics – lumpy oatmeal – and it was all downhill from there to Haggis, blood pudding and Goat’s Head Soup (that one was mine, and yes, I’ve eaten AND enjoyed it, although the random floating eyeball sort of freaked me out, but not as much as the jawbone still with teeth in it. Biting something that can bite me back gives me Rod Serling-esque nightmares best analyzed through long sessions on a couch with a paid mental health professional).

A while later, I was chatting with a friend of mine who’s a food writer, and mentioned our on line discussion of weird food. She, who routinely pan fries herself some brains for a Sunday breakfast and first introduced me to the wonders of the Asian Pacific Mall food court, scoffed at our paltry definitions of weird, and sent me this email –

Haggis isn’t weird, you twit. Casu Frazigu is weird. Balut is weird. For real weird, try to eat one of every item on this list, I dare you –

OK, well, no. No thank you. There’s dog meat on that list, and while I am an adventurous eater, I draw the line at foods I want to put on my lap and pet, and that includes at least a few people I know, and all of the dogs and cats. Umm, scratch the part about petting the people, but keep in the part about not eating them.

I think I’d probably try some Casu Frazigu, just so that I could say I’d done it. Here’s a description of this tasty Italian cheese, from an article in the Los Angeles Times –

[Canadian food scientist Massimo] Marcone is one of the world’s leading experts on foods that make most people go yuck! He recently wrote a book on the subject. One thing that really gets his glands salivating is casu frazigu cheese, which is packed with so many live maggots that it’s not only disgusting, the Italian government outlawed it.

“The rotten cheese has millions of live maggots in it, and it’s very highly prized all through Italy,” Marcone said. “It sells under the counter for about $100 a pound. As you’re carrying your bag with the cheese in it, you can actually hear the maggots hitting the side of the bag.

“People eat the cheese and maggots altogether. There’s nothing in there that can cause harm.”

Casu Frazigue cheeseYummy!

It’s two great tastes, that taste great together, with the added bonus of sound effects. I’m imagining it’s similar to the effect you get inside your head when you’re eating pop rocks.

The photo makes it look rather like a typical cream cheese, unless you look more closely. Actually, maybe looking more closely isn’t such a good idea.

At any rate, you don’t have to worry about bumping into Casu Frazigu (also known as Casu Marzu, in some areas) in your local dairy case, as it’s apparently now banned.

From Wikipedia –

Several food safety issues have been raised with casu marzu:

  • Anecdotal reports of allergic reactions.
  • A risk of the decomposition advancing to a toxic state. (Folk wisdom in Sardinia holds that the presence of still-living larvae are an assurance that this has not yet happened.)
  • Risk of enteric myiasis: intestinal larval infection. Piophila casei larvae can pass through the stomach alive (human stomach acids do not usually kill them) and take up residency for some period of time in the intestines, where they can cause serious lesions as they attempt to bore through the intestinal walls. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhea.[2]

Because of these health threats, or simply because it is considered a contaminated product, casu marzu cannot be legally sold in Italy. Within Sardinia, enforcement of the ban is sporadic and the cheese is available as a black market item, selling for about three times any other type of pecorino‘s price.

After a night of surfing weird people food, I find comfort in the fact that the ingredients in the food I feed my dogs don’t get much weirder than canned Mackerel. The next time I’m mentally complaining about mixing up a big bowl full of fish, yogurt, vegetable mash, kidneys and cow heart, I’m going to remind myself that it could be worse – someone could publish an article telling us that Maggot cheese is good for dogs.

That would make the whole tripe incident look like a dream come true.

By the way, the single most disturbing sentence in the entire thread that started this blog entry came in the form of this description of Old Country Buffet –

Think of  Cracker Barrel with creamed  herring

I am now indelibly scarred for life, and will have to force myself to make an immediate dinner reservation at  Eigensinn Farm, simply to recover from the trauma.

Canine Pregnancy in Thirteen Steps

Just for fun (a statement which cries out for the writer to get a real life, or at least some better hobbies), I thought I’d do a thorough break down on the steps involved in going from point ‘A’ (Bitch in Season) to point ‘B’ (litter of puppies).

It’s more complicated than you’d think.

Read more

The French Bulldog Mafia

I live my life with two separate packs of dogs. Pack one consists of Tessa, Sailor, Ellie, Penelope, Delilah, Journey, Tula and Dexter. Pack two consists of Bunny, Paris and Fanny. The separation isn’t arbitrary, but rather on what I’ve often considered to be a microcosm of Mafia families – two rival gangs, each eager to ensure the annihilation of the other group.

Wikipedia tells us that the structure of a Mafia family is as follows –

  1. Capo di Tutti Capi (the “Boss of All Bosses”, namely Matteo Messina Denaro for the Sicilian Mafia and Renato Gagliano for the Sacra Corona Unita)
  2. Capo di Capi Re (a title of respect given to a senior or retired member, equivalent to being a member emeritus, literally, “King Boss of Bosses”)
  3. Capo Crimine (“Crime Boss”, known as a Don – the head of a crime family)
  4. Capo Bastone (“Club Head”, known as the “Underboss” is second in command to the Capo Crimine)
  5. Consigliere (an advisor)
  6. Caporegime (“Regime head”, a captain who commands a “crew” of around ten Sgarriste or “soldiers”)
  7. Sgarrista or Soldato (“Soldier”, made members of the Mafia who serve primarily as foot soldiers)
  8. Picciotto (“Little man”, a low ranking member who serves as an “enforcer”)
  9. Giovane D’Onore (an associate member, usually someone not of Italian ancestry)

French Bulldog Capo di Capi ReTessa’s role in the first group would be that of Capo di Capi Re – the elder, respected ‘Boss of Bosses’. She’s up there in years, retired from active supervision of daily operations, and content to spend her days hanging with the grandkids, an orange slice in her mouth. That doesn’t mean she allows any form of disrespect, however – she’ll still occasionally slap around one of the younger family members, just to make sure they’re still aware of who’s the boss. In spite of this, everyone knows where the real power lies – with her daughter, Sailor.

Sailor is the Michael Corleone of our canine pack – the Capo di Tutti Capi. Moody and soulful, willing to exterminate any enemies with extreme prejudice but slightly conflicted about it. A warrior poet, not to be messed with, and demanding of respect. At dinner time, all of the other dogs might will around waiting for their food, but Sailor demands to be fed first, as fitting the ‘Boss of This Thing of Theirs’.

Ellie would be Sailor’s Consigliere. She hangs out with Sailor, grooms her, follows her from room to room, and generally makes herself indispensable to Sailor in day to day life.

Penelope would be Sailor’s underboss – she’s usually pretty easygoing, but if the younger dogs get out of hand, she’s willing to step in and handle the situation. She’s given respect by most of the dogs, with the exception of Tula, who will occasionally challenge her. This could lead to some problems when it’s time for Penelope to step up to a higher role in the family. Let’s hope Penelope doesn’t decide to have Tula whacked.

I suppose Tula would be a Caporegime, since she pretty much runs the younger dogs who are lower than her in rank, with Delilah and Journey acting as Soldatos, and Dexter most definately a Picciotto, or ‘Little Man’.

Poor Fanny is a Soldato, verging on being a Giovane. She can get along with either family, and although neither shows her much respect, they don’t pick on her, either.

Paris, on the other hand, is a Capo De Crimine – head of her own little crime family, which is at war with Sailor. She’s happily whack Sailor, given a chance, and she has beefs with a number of Sailor’s ‘crew’, mainly Journey, Tula and Penelope. Bunny was the former Capo, but somehow or another Paris staged a coup, and now Bunny is Paris’ Underboss. She doesn’t dare mess with Paris’ authority.

Simpsons Horse HeadI spend a lot of time making sure neither family has access to horse heads.

A Side Note:

I’ll be away on and off for most of March through the first week of April. I’ve compiled a few pre written blog entries, including some Thursday Thirteens, but posting will be sporadic, and I won’t be answering much email.

Since Barb is completely computer-less at the moment, this means very little email answering of any kind will be taking place. I mean, even less so than usual.

Traffic Jams, Country Style

One of the very few things I do not miss about living in Toronto is the traffic. I didn’t bother owning a car for almost three years, because it was just easier – and faster – to use public transit than it was to fight with cross town traffic.

I was pretty sure that moving 2 hours north of Toronto had eliminated that problem, until Friday afternoon. Driving up the side road that takes me into Mount Forest, I encountered a sight I didn’t expect to see outside of Texas – a herd of cattle, being driven up the middle of the road by four riders on horseback.

There were about 30 head of cattle, none of whom seemed thrilled to be heading up the middle of the road, and all of whom were ready to break for it any moment. Their first bolt took them over a snowbank and onto a small century log house’s property. Since these cattle apparently weren’t the four wheel drive variety, two of them managed to get stuck in a five foot high snowbank, and dislodging them took a good twenty minutes of pushing and pulling. In the meantime, the remaining cattle and the one rider watching them milled about at the intersection of two roads, until the cattle finally said ‘bugger this’, and headed off into the backyard of the ranch style bungalow sitting on the corner. They ran close enough past the house that I could only picture the homeowners looking out the window to come face to face several hundred tons of cattle trampling their vegetable garden.

When they were finally herded back onto the road, they decided to break for the other side of the road, at which point the driver of the mini van that was sitting across the intersection from me got out and hat waved them back where they belonged. Soon after, the off road cattle were chivvied back in with their herd mates, and the whole group headed west from the intersection, allowing the back log of fifteen or so cars to get back on the road.

It certainly was more picturesque than the average city traffic jam is… and had me wondering why they hell I don’t keep at least a disposable camera in the car.

I suspect the cattle and riders were possibly heading for Bar K, which is a ranch in nearby Holstein. Bar K is a working farm, and home to the annual Holstein Rodeo, held every July.

If Rodeo isn’t your thing, you can head over to Harriston for the Canadian Redneck Games, which includes not one, not two, but three mud pit related activities (Slip n’ Slide, Tug O War, and Belly Flop contests), as well as the ever popular ‘Bobbin’ For Pigs Feet’ and Hubcab Hurl. There’s also community BBQ, which we’re told is ‘roadkill free’.

It’s sometimes hard to believe that all of this is two short hours from one of the largest cities in North America. Country living is a lot of things, but it’s not boring.

By the way, writing this post has given me a fever – a fever for cowbell.