It's very common for cheeses to cause mild to moderate halitosis. After all, they're made using curdled milk, enzymes and bacteria. However, even in the annals of oral odor, few cheeses are as rank and repulsive as casu marzu, a Sardinian specialty.
Besides being one of the foulest-smelling delicacies in all of Mediterranea, this variety is also known for being full of living, writhing maggots. Yet in spite of (or maybe because of) this, casu marzu is considered a delicious rarity by many Italians. So rather than skipping it, just come to the table armed with specialty bad breath remedies.
Many cheeses smell rotten, but this one actually is. According to the Wall Street Journal, this variety begins as pecorino sardo, a pretty undistinguished sheep's milk cheese. Then, after it has aged a while, cheesemakers add the eggs of the Piophila casei, or "cheese fly," to the wheel.
These little guys burrow into the cheese and begin eating it, breaking it down and creating a thin, runny cream called lagrima, which is Italian for "tears". By all reports, this fluid smells worse than almost anything imaginable. It's also supposed to taste absolutely heavenly.
However, when eating casu marzu, there's a catch. You have to pick out - or eat up - the still-living cheese fly larvae.
Watch your eyes!
By the time a wheel of casu marzu is broken open, these immature, wormy larvae are wriggling around by the thousands. And according to casu connoisseurs, the problem isn't that they taste bad (on the contrary, it's reportedly hard to taste them over the intense flavor of the lagrima).
Instead, the issue is that the moment these little creatures are exposed to air, they start jumping like mad. Evidently they can jump as far as six inches right off the plate and into your face.
Thus, some cheese experts recommend sealing the opened cheese in a paper bag. As the larvae run out of air, the pop-pop-pop of their jumping will slowly fade away, like popcorn in the microwave. Once they've all died, the cheese can be eaten without fear of getting live larvae everywhere.
However, you'll need to be sure to gargle with a powerful specialty mouthwash after indulging in this ultra-fragrant treat. The scent of casu marzu can linger for days, but with some good alcohol-free bad breath remedies in hand, you can rest easy knowing that your mouth will smell anything but rotten.