Endo-Cannibalism, Casu Marzu, and Expressing Disgust

For more writings on this blogI listen to a lot of podcasts. In 2020, I listened to at least a half an hour of podcasts on 7 of every 8 days. I didn’t track how much time, though, because I didn’t think I’d be listening to that much podcast time, like maybe 100 hours? I regretted not keeping those stats to know in 2020, but I’m not too concerned as I know I will be listening to a lot more in 2021 as I find more podcasts I enjoy, and listen more efficiently in life while doing many other things than I did in 2020. Already, in 2021, I am averaging 100 minutes per day (1h 40 min), which, if kept up, will mean I will hit 100 hours by the end of February, ahead of my goal of 500 hours for the year that I have yet to blog about as part of my posts on my resolutions.

Five hundred hours a year is a lot of time to be listening to podcasts! Who has that much time on their hands these days? Certainly not me! However, I do my podcast listening while I am doing other things like cooking, so it’s a motivator to do things I don’t always enjoy. Practically all my bathroom time expect for quick pees are accompanied by podcasts now. I sometimes even write or read articles with a podcast on, to challenge myself for concentration since multitasking is not only bad for efficiency, it’s worse when a common sense or function, like processing words, is being used between tasks! Podcasting has practically replaced music in my life except for when I’m running, or doing writing, at times. What started as an enjoyable hobby has now turned into full blown addiction!

Over the course of this year, I will highlight one episode from my favourite podcasts to introduce people to them, eventually forming my favourite podcasts list. There seems to be no way of sharing such a list easily that I know of in WordPress, like embedding code from some platform, so this seems to be the only way. Certainly, it will be the funner way, to rave about podcast episodes I love, which you can see on my podcast library Twitter, Mass Confucian. Today, I will start sharing with the most recent episode, at time of writing, of the Freakonomics Radio podcast that is one of my favourites of the favourites, and which I would freaking recommend! The episode was on disgust, and it was delightfully and informatively disgusting!

To start, instead of describing what the Freakonomics Radio podcast is about, I will share what they wrote about themselves. I’m sure they’d appreciate me leaving that to their well-paid marketing folks, rather than me describing it in my own words.

Discover the hidden side of everything with Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books. Each week, Freakonomics Radio tells you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do) — from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything. Dubner speaks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, intellectuals and entrepreneurs, and various other underachievers. The entire archive, going back to 2010, is available at freakonomics.com and most major podcasting platforms now.


Likewise, instead of describing or summarizing the episode, I will, once more, leave it to the Freakonomics Radio folks to do the same.

The Downside of Disgust (Ep. 448)

It’s a powerful biological response that has preserved our species for millennia. But now it may be keeping us from pursuing strategies that would improve the environment, the economy, even our own health. So is it time to dial down our disgust reflex?  You can help fix things — as Stephen Dubner does in this episode — by chowing down on some delicious insects.


So what am I going to be writing about then, having provided a summary from another source? The fun part! That’s what! I’m going to write about what I got out of the episode that not only delighted me, but that I will be able to use in the future, and which I think will delight you as well! Summaries and outlines are like assignments, not freewriting that these posts are supposed to be for me as a fast flowing warm-up towards more serious writing just after this.


Six forms of disgust

I usually like or love every episode of Freakonomics. This one loved! The episodes I tend to love are the ones that discuss things to which everyone, or almost everyone, can relate, rather than the more obscure or specialized topics. Disgust is something universal, albeit with a lot of variance among humans in details, but not without trends and commonalities exist. For example, did you know there are six categories of disgust? They are disgust towards:

  1. Certain kinds of animals and insects;
  2. Sex (how sad);
  3. Atypical appearances, whether fashions or other self grooming (how sad, in a very different way of biases, compared to missing out for sex);
  4. Types of food (partially sad for missing out);
  5. Hygiene; and
  6. Human injuries and deformities, whether full on limbs or lesions on skin.


Two disgust faces and application

For our six types of disgust, we only have two “disgust face” expressions to use:

Face A — A jaw drop, sometimes with tongue sticking out to show an oral rejection, and maybe a closing of the nostrils; and

Face B — A raising of the upper lip that overlaps a little with the anger expression.

Can you see those for yourself? Go to the mirror or take a selfie of what your disgust faces look like. There was no mention of which disgust face we used for each type of disgust, or if there were any tendencies as I’m pretty sure not everybody reacts to the different types of disgust in the same way. You know what’d be fun, though? Try and imagine something in the six types of disgust, and react to it in as natural a way as you can to see how your disgust faces map to the types of disgust. For me, I only have one disgust face, and it’s Face B. It applies to all the forms of disgust except sex, and rarely towards personal grooming any more with age to be more accepting of others. For sex, I only have curiosity, and perhaps ironically, for one of the few things in life for which my tongue sticks out. 😉


Only one disgust sound

There are many variations of the disgust sound, but really only one, supposedly. That would be “an onomatopoeic ‘blech’ or ‘ick’ or ‘ugh’, within or decorated by some less dominant sound/s in the many world languages. Mine would be more like “egh”, testing it out against the claim. You? The mere two disgust faces and one disgust sound make the full disgust expression more universal, I guess. For all the differences we have in languages and cultures, this pretty much means if you were with someone and one of you were disgusted at something, there’d be no doubt that the other would know. How nice!



Disgust categories and faces, while interesting, were just the warm-up to the many things I enjoyed from this episode of Freakonomics Radio podcast. The meat of it good stuff is the two types of cannibalism. Did you know there were two types of cannibalism? I didn’t! I thought eating your own kind was eating your own kind. Well, apparently not! As it turns out, most of the cannibalism we think of, like eating others to survive or eating our enemies, is called “exo-cannibalism”. However, in contrast, you could eat others out of love! That’s right, eating others out of love! That’s call “endo-cannibalism”, and it’s like a spiritual practice to eat something with the ashes of someone you love so as to have them as part of you forever. Hmmm. I’m almost ready to flip a Disgust Face A that I thought I didn’t have over this one. I was almost ready, but not quite, because my rational thought beat my emotional response to react with “but wouldn’t they just shit out their loved ones soon after endo-cannibalizing them?” Seriously! I don’t know if whoever thought up this endo-cannibalism thing had an answer for that, but I’m sure someone doing this must have asked! Wouldn’t someone have?

While that endo-cannibalism thing is “great” if you were going to do it, my reaction to it is still to go big while you’re at it. Don’t embed their ashes in some burger or salad or drink, man. Cook them and eat them! Do that and I’ll show you my Disgust Face A!


Cheeses with maggots and mites

If you were to discuss disgust with anyone, arguably the most relatable conversion to have would be over disgusting food. Depending on your tastes, disgusting food could be anything from McDonald’s to durian, or “stinky socks fruit” as a friend of mine once called it. Yet, even if each person’s idea of disgusting food were dramatically different from the other’s, I think both could relate and enjoy the exchange since they could relate to disgusting food in their own ways. For your future conversations of disgusting food, there were two really disgusting foods mentioned in the podcast. I will get to them shortly below, but before that, I want you to think about the most disgusting food you know, for a standard to compare what I’m about to tell you in relation to the header to this section. Maybe even share it in the comments while you have it on your mind.

Somewhere in the middle of this Freakonomics Radio podcast episode, there was mention of a cheese called casu marzu, from Sardinia, Italy. It “is a cheese that they let sit and then flies come and lay their eggs into the cheese, and then you have the maggots crawling around and people eat that cheese with the maggots”. OK. I think that was a Face A with a “blegh” sound! That, for sure, is the most disgusting food I have ever heard of, though only a bit more disgusting than the German’s mite cheese that have living mites in the cheese! Gross as both might be, I’ll take mites over maggots any day, even if not by much! Both are far worse than the fried crickets and pig brain soup I have eaten, or crushed red fire ants I have drunk to clear my lungs and wind pipes of what seemed to be eternal phlegm when I was kid! For all the Asian foods I deemed disgusting, despite being Asian, the Italians now have the award in my life! Drinking the crushed red fire ants worked, by the way! Don’t be dissing ancient Chinese medicine so quickly if you weren’t a believer! Anyway, what do you think of that? And what’s the most disgusting food you had ever consumed?


Disgustologists exist

There is such a thing as a “disgustologist”, someone who studies disgust. Really! Come on WordPress spellcheck! Trust me! Listen to the episode! There were two of them there, though I think only one called herself that, but she wasn’t the only one. It certainly sounds interesting, though I don’t think I’d want to subject myself to all the stuff required for research.


Any disgustingly good podcasts you’d care to share?

So that’s my introduction to you for the Freakonomics Radio podcast, or at least this episode if you were familiar with the podcast already and had not heard this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and will check out not only the episode, but also a podcast. It’s one of the little things in life I look forward to most each week, Thursday specifically, when new episodes are released. If you have a favourite podcast or two, I’d love it if you could share it with me in the comments. If my podcast addiction were like that of drugs, then I’d want to be sampling all the drugs I can, man!


1988 words total, but only mostly mine due to the quotes embedded

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