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.”
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.
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.