■ Tears for fears: The Italian ‘Casu Marzu’ (pictured above) roughly translates into English as ‘God-forsaken rotting maggot stink bomb’. It’s a sheep’s milk cheese, which sounds innocent enough until you discover that it has been deliberately infested with piophila casei, aka the ‘cheese fly’.
The result is a maggot-ridden, weeping lump of curdled milkiness in an advanced state of decomposition – which people eat. The worst bit: The larvae are still alive and pass through the stomach undigested, sometimes surviving long enough to breed in the intestine, where they attempt to bore through the walls, causing vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
This cheese is a delicacy in Sardinia, proving that Sardinia did in fact create something worse than organised crime and canned salty fish. Even the cheese itself is ashamed; if you poke it, it weeps an odorous liquid called ‘lagrima’, Sardinian for ‘tears’.
■ Acid trip: After finishing the maggot-ridden cheese as your appetiser, we would all welcome a nice, clean Scandinavian dish to wash it all away. But this dish might be a little too clean – in fact, if prepared incorrectly, you might even be eating straight up soap.
Lutefisk is a traditional Norwegian dish featuring cod that has been soaked for about a week in a lye solution, until its flesh is caustic enough to dissolve metal. Lye is a powerful industrial chemical used for cleaning drains, killing plants, making soap, powering batteries and manufacturing biodiesel.
Direct contact with lye can cause chemical burns, permanent scarring or total delicious fishiness, depending on whether you ask a Norwegian or a sane person.
■ Brandy bomb: The ortolan bird, a kind of bunting, grows to around six inches long and weighs just four ounces. Basically, it’s tiny and adorable, and, if you’re French and advocate torture, it’s also quite delicious.
The recipe for ortolan comes straight from the Guantanamo Bay training manual: Capture the bird in the wild, blind it using a pair of pincers, stick it in a tight cage so it’s unable to move, then feed it nothing but millet, grapes and figs until it grows to be four times its normal size.
Then, in a final act of mercy, drown it in a big glass of brandy. After roasting the violated remains of the bird, you cover your face with a napkin (probably because you need to disguise your identity), place the whole bird inside your mouth, with only it’s head and beak sticking out... and bite down. The head falls into the napkin, while you slowly bite through the bird’s adorable little bones, tiny muscles and even tinier internal organs.
The finale comes when you bite through its lungs and stomach, releasing pockets of brandy into your mouth, probably to help numb the trauma from the atrocity you’ve just committed.
■ Black Sabbath: The best way to deal with your fears is often to face them head on. If that doesn’t work, you can always try eating them.
The island nation of Palau might be the place to do it, with the locals boasting a dish equal parts coconut milk, Ozzy Osbourne and pure, unfiltered nightmares.
Basically, they take the flapping foot soldiers of Satan, otherwise known as bats, and cook them in milk and spices. We’re told the bats have a ‘gamey’ taste that has been described as ‘oddly fragrant’ and similar to chicken liver.