As I write this, a long-time friend is currently on vacation in Sardegna, Italy, where his family originates from. For those of you who don’t know, Sardegna is a beautiful island north of Sicily, which has a very distinct culture of its own, including its cuisine, which brings me to the point of this post: maggots. Yes, you read that correctly.
Food shouldn’t just be eaten; it should be experienced! Possibly my favourite and most memorable food experience was 10 years ago, when the above-mentioned friend chose to get married in his father’s home town in Sardegna. It was such a pleasure and honour to be there with him to celebrate.
There are too many amazing memories from that trip to recount here, but there is one that definitely stands out: casu marzu. Casu Marzu is a pecorino cheese specialty of Sardegna, made with a very special process. More specifically, it goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage of decomposition, resulting from the digestive action of fly larvae (aka maggots), which are deliberately introduced. Through this process, the texture of the cheese becomes decadently soft and almost liquid. The larvae themselves can actually be seen wiggilng about when the cheese is cut into.
So it was that we found ourselves, two nights before the wedding, in a somewhat remote community gathering place on the outskirts of my friend’s family’s home town for an amazing “spuntino”; a casual relaxed evening of non-stop food and wine. The menu included malloredus pasta (another Sardegnan specialty), deep fried smelts, and wood oven roasted lamb; but the star of the show was the casu marzu. It was brought out late in the evening, with fanfare as the dozens of people in attendance literally cheered, and then gathered around to watch as it was ceremoniously cut into. I’ll never forget as my turn to taste came and to make sure I got the full experience, we dug around looking for one of the maggots. The taste was pungent and creamy and quite delicious.
It was truly a special experience; but not because of the taste of the cheese. It was special because it was experienced with friends at a special time in life in a special place.