Another day. More wine. Another driver. Interestingly enough, most of the drivers we’ve met on this trip, seem to be transnational imports. Yesterday’s driver was a French émigré. Our taxi driver last night was originally from Russia. Today’s driver was, disappointingly, an American. Damn Americans, always hanging around in their own country, taking jobs from interesting immigrants.
Of all the stories our friendly drivers have told us though, it’s the American’s that wins, hands-down. In conversations with him we learned about a cheese called casu marzu. Now I love cheese. I love cheese in all its manifold and diverse glory, runny cheeses, hard cheeses, smelly cheeses. As a matter of fact, I was reasonably sure that there wasn’t a cheese on the planet that I wouldn’t at least try, if only to say – yep, I ate that. Until now.
Casu marzu is a sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia, and why our driver knew all about it I cannot say. He didn’t seem to be of Sardinian extraction, though since I’ve never knowingly met anyone from Sardinia, how would I know. Anyway, this cheese is deliberately (and here I’m pretty sure there has to be some international proscription against this, much like the Geneva Convention) infected with the eggs of the cheese fly. Did you know there was a cheese fly? I didn’t, and I can safely say I could have gone through life in blissful ignorance of this factoid. The eggs hatch into adorable little cheese-fly larvae, also know as maggots. Hundreds and hundreds of maggots that then start to eat their way through the cheese, the byproducts of said consumption, helping to break down the fats in the cheese making it really runny. And the odor, did I mention the ripe, putrescent odor?
Here’s another fun little fact. Cheese fly larvae, or maggots can leap up to six inches when they are disturbed, like when someone slices into their reeking, seeping cheesy home. So casu marzu, as well as being a top ten entry into the Guinness Book of Things Human Beings Were Never Meant to Eat, also gets credit for the first and only cheese (that I know of, or that I ever want to know of) for which the use of eye protection is recommended while consuming. Did I mention that apparently, in Sardinia, the only place on the planet that actually contains people willing to eat this atrocity, casu marzu is illegal? So even if you are clinically insane enough to actually want to eat this cheese, you have to break the law to do so. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go and give my brain a good harsh scrub with a steel wire brush, some bleach and a healthy dollop of sulfuric acid.
Two days of sampling wines and I appear to have reached my personal limit. They all start to blend together around that point, and the only thing that really stuck out at the end of the day was that we drank sparkling California wine produced by Tattinger that was actually quite good. Not that the other wines weren’t good – they were fine indeed.
A quiet evening tonight, since on the morrow we’ll make the drive across the state from the valleys of California wine country to the mighty Sierras. A day in the dry Central Valley heat is just what we need to dry out our wine sodden cells.