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Maggot cheese anyone? How about some bird's nest soup?

By Viga Boland     Jul 4, 2007 in Lifestyle
Would you like some civet poop coffee with your order? It only costs $600 a pound. The maggot cheese will cost you a mere $100 a pound. It tastes a bit like asiago...a real treat. As for that bird's nest soup from Malaysia it's a real bargain @ $80 a bowl
wouldn't you say?
No I wouldn't say it was a bargain and even more, I wouldn't want to try any of it.
But according to a mild mannered, soft-spoken and award-winning professor at the University of Guelph, Massimo Marcone, that "scat coffee" or "Kopi Luwak" has a deep chocolatey flavour that is earthy and musty and quite in demand amongst those with more exotic tastes and fat pocketbooks.
Marcone's specialty is investigating -- and eating -- some of the world's most bizarre food delicacies. He hunts them down, tests them for contamination, and if they're "safe", he summons up the courage to taste them. His research has taken him into rain forests and dark caves from Indonesia to Mexico.
Outside North America, Marcone encountered gangsters, smugglers and a tribe with a headhunting history. He boated on a crocodile-infested river, met marauding rats and escaped becoming a lion's lunch in Ethiopia.
He left Indonesia just two days before the Tsunami struck. As he headed for the Sudanese border, 8 United Nations workers were being murdered just 8 hours before he got there. Little wonder that media have nicknamed Marcone the "Indiana Jones of the food world"!
Marcone's unusual hobby or specialty started when he had to detemine whether that poop coffee was an urban myth. I know articles have been posted about this coffee before but just to refresh your memories, here's how it's made:
...a nocturnal, cat-like creature called a palm civet eats only the sweetest and ripest red coffee cherries ... The fruit is ingested, leaving the coffee beans to travel through the gastrointestinal tract and end up in a pile of poop under the trees. People collect the beans, and wash, roast and brew them into a coffee...
As for that bird's nest soup, it's made from the saliva of a swiftlet bird. To get at it, Marcone has pried nests off cliff walls in Malaysia. But the one that turns my stomach is that maggot cheese, known as "casu frazigu". Our Italian members (?) might be quite familiar with it. As I said earlier, it tastes like Asiago cheese, but when Marcone describes what he heard at night while he was investigating and testing the cheese just makes me cringe:
The cheese woke him one night. Thinking he heard the clatter of rain, Marcone dashed out on the balcony, where he had placed it, to rescue the smelly specimen.
It wasn't raining. What he'd heard was the sound of maggots jumping and hitting the inside of the cheese container.
"Believe it or not, they go like this, tuk, tuk, tuk," he said, imitating the sound.
"You know when they're going to jump. They curl up and spring."
Marcone needed a little help eating the hyperactive cheese after his tests showed it was safe.
"They refrigerated them so they kind of fall asleep," he said. "It actually tasted almost like Asiago cheese. It had a bite to it."
Well for my money, Marcone and the folks who love this delicacy are most welcome to it. Somehow plain old Havarti or Gouda or even good old Canadian Brick cheese appeals to me more.
Marcone sounds like a fascinating man. Apparently his classes are riveting. So is his office which has things like two stuffed civet cats (roadkill) and a giant whale tooth leaning up against a wall. I'd love to sit in on one of his classes. Wouldn't you?
However I think I'll decline any offers of lunch!
More about Massimo marcone, Scat coffee, Maggot cheese