10 Weird-but-true Food Facts


Cheese: Of Fire and Flies

Mmmm, maggots! David McLain/Aurora/Getty Images
Mmmm, maggots! David McLain/Aurora/Getty Images

Other countries may require the aid of spirits to set their respective cheeses aflame, but the land of fjords produces a brown cheese that burns like a tire fire all on its own. Actually, brunost is not technically a cheese because, like ricotta, it's made not only of curds but also of whey, the liquid left over after milk has been curdled and strained. The result is a sweet, brown block of sticky, caramelized lactose, a brick of fat and sugar that burns like nobody's business – enough so that a spilled, flaming truckload shut down a Norwegian tunnel for four days [source: Coleman].

Of course, there are reasons you might want to set cheese on fire, and we're not talking about fondues or saganakis. Take Sardinia's illegal maggot-ridden cheese casu marzu. In a possible case of "if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em," this putrid pecorino requires some larval love to fully come alive. With a little encouragement from cheese makers, flies lay eggs in the product, which then hatch into larvae. As the maggots crawl through the cheese using their tiny teeth, they release a putrefying enzyme essential to the product's characteristic flavor and (gulp!) mouthfeel. Patrons are advised to cover their eyes, ostensibly to prevent wayward maggots from jumping into them [source: Oldfield and Mitchinson].