So, the question arose in a chat over on MeWe. Is cheese a luxury? Well, people can survive without cheese, be it cow, water-buffalo, sheep, goat, or otherwise. If you have to severely trim your budget, good cheese tends to get shed from the protein list in favor of legumes, milk (for those of us who do milk), eggs, and cheap meat cuts. Soft cheeses, like cottage cheese or queso fresco don’t keep that well. Milk can be used to cook other things, as well as drunk straight, turned into really good chocolate milk, or tapioca pudding (stretch your dairy and starches), or to fortify hot cereal. I’m not so sure about Cheddar cheese and cereal, but I’m sure someone has tried it at least once, if only on a dare.
However, cheese is one of those things that adds a lot of flavor to dishes, perks up otherwise bland things, and has enough fat to be a comfort food. A really, really good macaroni and cheese, or three-cheese-pizza with real cheese, or fresh-grated Parmesan on fresh veggies in a cold pasta or chick-pea salad, those are all things that satisfy more than just the stomach. Flavor and fat make a lot of things far more edible, and cheeses provide both of those. And if you need dairy, but can’t drink milk, hard cheese lasts far better than most yogurts.
So, I would argue that while good cheese is a not a necessity, it is not an indulgence, either. To me, an indulgence is something that goes overboard. A $250/pound Kobe beef steak is an indulgence. $100/lb chocolate is an indulgence. Down here, a full-length fur coat is an indulgence (unless the fur is on the inside, and it has a wind-blocking layer, at which point we’re talking “Arctic parka” rather than “see my fancy fur coat.”) Really good cheese, Cheddar, Emmental, or other similar semi-soft grating or slicing cheeses, Parmesan and related truly hard cheeses, they are worth the money. Man can live without cheeses, but life is far better with them. When I’m cold, and wet, and achy, and my budget is whimpering, well, grated cheese melted in a tortilla (quesadilla AKA Mexican grilled-cheese) with a good salsa fills a physical and emotional hole. And it tastes really, really good.