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This is the “most dangerous” cheese in the world

(CNN) – The Italian island of Sardinia is located in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea, overlooking Italy from a distance. Surrounded by 1,849 kilometers of white sandy beaches and emerald waters, the island’s interior landscape rises rapidly to form water-resistant hills and mountains.

And in those curves, shepherds produce casso marzu, a worm-infested cheese that was declared in 2009, in the Guinness Book of World Records, the most dangerous cheese in the world.

cheese flies, Biophila caseiThey lay their eggs in the cracks that form in the cheese, generally fiori sardo, the salty pecorino of the island.

The worms hatch, make their way through the pasta, digesting the proteins in the process and turning the product into soft cream cheese.

Then the cheese maker opens the top – hardly touched by the worms – to extract a spoonful of the delicious cream.

This is not the time for the weak. At this point, the larvae inside begin to frantically turn over.

Some locals spin the cheese through a centrifuge to combine the worms with the cheese. Others naturally like her. They open their mouths and eat everything.

Casu marzu is made from sheep’s milk. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

If you can get over the understandable disgust, Marzo has a strong flavor with hints of Mediterranean herbs and a spicy aftertaste that lasts for hours.

Some say it is an aphrodisiac. Others say so It can be dangerous to human health, since worms can survive a bite and create mitosis, tiny openings in the intestines, but so far, no such case has been linked to casu marzu.

Cheese Forbidden in commercial saleBut Sardinians have consumed it, including jumping caterpillars, for centuries.

“The infestation of the worm is the mantra and the pleasure of this cheese,” says Paolo Solinas, 29, a Sardinian gourmet.

He says some Sardinians shudder at the idea of ​​casso marzu, but others who have grown up the salty pecorino life love its unabashedly strong flavors.

“Some patrons view cheese as a uniquely personal treat, something only a select few can taste,” Solinas adds.

old kitchen

It is illegal to buy or sell in March. Credit: Giovanni Fancelo

When tourists visit Sardinia, they usually end up in a restaurant serving Sardinian porsido, a slow roasted suckling pig, visit the bakers who sell the carao board, a traditional paper-thin bread, and meet the patrons who produce Sardinian cheese, Pecorino cheese. .

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However, if you are adventurous enough, it is possible to find casu marzu. It should not be seen as an exotic attraction, but rather as a product that keeps ancient traditions alive and hints at what the future of food might look like.

Giovanni Vancello, a 77-year-old journalist and gourmet in Sardinia, has spent his life researching the history of local food. Its history dates back to the time when Sardinia was a province of the Roman Empire.

“Latin was our language, and in our dialect we find traces of our ancient cuisine,” says Fancelo.

There is no written record of Sardinian recipes until 1909, according to Vancelo. At the time, Vittorio Agnetti, a mainland physician from Modena, traveled to Sardinia and compiled six recipes in a book called “La nuova cucina delle specialità Regionali”.

“But we always eat worms,” ​​says Vancelo. “Pliny the Elder and Aristotle spoke of it.”

Ten other Italian regions have worm-infested cheeses, but while the produce elsewhere is unique, casso marzo is an intrinsic part of Sardinian food culture.

Cheese has several different names, such as casu becciu, casu fattittu, hasu muhidu, and formaggio marcio. Each sub-region of the island has its own way of producing it using different types of milk.

“Magic and Supernatural Events”

Foodies inspired by the exploits of chefs like Gordon Ramsay often come in search of cheese, says Vancelo. They ask us: “How is casso marzu made?” It is part of our history. We are the children of this food. It is the result of chance, of magical and supernatural events.”

Fancelo grew up in the town of Thiesi with his father Sebastiano, who was a patron who made casso marzo. Vasilo leads his family’s sheep to pastures around the rural area of ​​Mount Rojo lost in the clouds where he believes magic happens.

Remember that for his father, the casio marzo was a divine gift. If your cheeses weren’t infested with worms, I’d be desperate. Some of the cheese that was produced remained for the family, and some went into the hands of friends or people who requested it.

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Casu Marzu is usually produced in late June, when the local sheep’s milk begins to change as the animals enter the breeding season and the grass dries up from the summer heat.

The coastal town of Alghero in Sardinina. Image source: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP via Getty Images

If the warm sirocco winds blow on the day of cheesemaking, the transformative magic of cheese works even more. This is because the cheese has a weaker structure, Fancelo says, which makes the fly’s work easier.

Three months later, the delicacy is ready.

Mario Morocco, 66, keeps casio marzo traditions alive on his farm, Agriturismo Sa Mandra, near Alghero in northern Sardinia. He also raises 300 sheep and receives guests in his restaurant, keeping the casio marzo traditions alive.

“You know when the shape is going to become a casso marzo,” he says. “You see it because of the unusual spongy texture of the pasta,” says Moroko.

Today, this is not so much due to luck as to the ideal conditions that cheesemakers use to ensure as much casso marzu as possible. They’ve also figured out a way to use glassware to preserve cheese, which traditionally didn’t last after September, for years.

high fines

Sardinia’s unusual cheese dates back to Roman times. Credit: Alice Mastino

Although revered, the legal status of cheese is a gray area.

Casu marzu is registered as a traditional Sardinian product and is therefore locally protected. However, the Italian government has made this illegal since 1962 due to laws prohibiting the consumption of foods infected with parasites.

Those selling cheese can face hefty fines of up to 50,000 euros (about $60,000), but Sardinians laugh when asked about the ban on their favorite cheese.

In recent years, the European Union began to study and Reviving the idea of ​​eating caterpillars Thanks to the concept that they new food (new food in English), where insects are bred for consumption.

Investigation He explains that its consumption can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with animal husbandry and help mitigate the climate crisis.

Roberto Flor, Director of Sardinia Skylab Food LabThe Diet Change Lab at the Danish Technical University Innovation Center has long studied the concept of insect consumption.

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For several years, he led the research and development team at Nordic Food Lab, part of Noma Restaurant, with three Michelin stars, are trying to find ways to introduce insects into our diet.

“Many cultures associate the insect with one of the ingredients,” says Fleur. However, Sardinians prefer cheese over worms and are often horrified by the idea that people eat scorpions or crickets in Thailand.

Fleur says he has traveled the world studying how different cultures treat insects as food, and believes that while psychological barriers make it difficult to radically change eating habits, such consumption is widespread.

Are insects the answer to hunger? 1:26

open minded

Insect consumption is more common in countries such as Thailand. Image source: PORNCAI KITTIWONGSAKUL / AFP via Getty Images

“How do you know edible food?” He says. “Every region in the world has a different way of eating insects.”

He is convinced that the Sardinian delicacy is safe to eat.

“I don’t think anyone has ever died eating a casso marzu. If they did, they might have been drunk. You know, when you eat it, you also drink a lot of wine.”

Fleur hopes that the casu marzu will soon give up its secret status and become an icon of Sardinia, not because of its unusual production, but because it stands for other foods that are now disappearing because they don’t fit the tastes of the modern-day mainstream.

In 2005, researchers from the University of Sassari in Sardinia took the first step in this direction: they raised flies in the lab and made them infect sheep’s cheese to demonstrate that the process could occur in a controlled manner.

Islanders and researchers hope the European Union will soon come to their favour.

Until then, anyone wanting to give it a try should ask when they arrive in Sardinia.

For those who want to stop worrying about what they’re eating, it provides a true experience reminding us of the time when nothing was thrown away and when the boundaries of what was edible were or were no less set.

Cheesemonger Murrocu says that, appropriately, it keeps locals open about how best to eat casso marzu, but some other regional dishes have been known to help smooth the slide.

“We spread the cheese on a wet karao board and eat it,” he says. “But you can eat it however you like, as long as there is some formaggio marcio and good cannano wine.”

Cicadas invade everything and some talk about its benefits 3:04

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