From Maggot Cheese to Fermented Shark, Five Foods That Could Be Used As Puberty Rites

Food is a very subjective thing; what's considered a delicacy in one place may be looked at with horror in another. After all, while most Americans would shy away from cubes of congealed pork blood swimming in soup, most Asians think cheese is disgusting.

There are some foods, however, that are so, um, "special" that even their cultures don't eat them very often. Below are five food that could be used as coming-of-age tests. I have personally consumed all five of these dishes; any hair that grows on my chest is directly attributable to these foods.

Also, notice that three of the five of these are Scandinavian, proof positive that living in a climate where the sun disappears for weeks at a time has made my people very, very desperate and very, very tenacious. The food of poverty, or hazing? You decide.

1. Casu marzu

Aged cheese is good. Extremely aged cheese can be an acquired taste, though the stinky-cheese partisans are a vocal and proselytizing group. Casu marzu, though, is its own level of horror. It's a Sardinian pecorino--sheep's milk cheese--that has been allowed to age so thoroughly that it contains live maggots. Whether you pick the maggots out or eat them is a matter of personal preference--but whatever you do, you chase it with either the biggest, strongest red wine you can find, or grappa.

2. Lutefisk

The Norwegians are famous for their cod; even the bacalao that feeds the southwestern quadrant of Europe is made from Norwegian cod that's been splayed out, salted, and dried until it resembles a fishy billy club. Leave it to the Norwegians, though, to then reconstitute the fish with lye, and then soak the lye out of the fish, leaving a translucent, gelatinous blob of protein that smells like a janitor's closet. In fairness, Norwegians don't eat lutefisk nearly as often as Norwegian-Americans do, which just goes to show that winter in Minnesota is enough to drive otherwise normal people to strange lengths.

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