Cheese: A Luxury, but not an Indulgence

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.


11 thoughts on “Cheese: A Luxury, but not an Indulgence

  1. Now I have a craving for grilled cheese, or toasted open-faced sandwiches, with some just crusty cheddar on top.

    Never mind what I was first thinking – and why NOT grilled cheese for breakfast?

  2. “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.”

    Two words: cheese grits.

    • Cheese grits, when done well, are a thing of beauty and delight. When done well. (My undergrad college had a Sunday Brunch that was a thing of Southern beauty. Including wonderful cheese grits. And biscuits. Oooooohhh, the biscuits. When the biscuit lady retired [for the second time], the whole college went into mourning.)

      • I’m glad you had a good experience with Sunday meals at college. My first go at college, Sunday meals were always something of a disappointment. They served brunch 10-1, so if I got up early or really slept in I was hungry for a while, or subsisting on cereal. On our campus, only one of the dining halls was open Sunday, and it was the one located centrally (i.e. amid the academic building, equally inconvenient to all the clusters of residence halls). I know it was so that the workers had time off to rest, spend time with family, got to church, etc. but it was really inconvenient. The food was plentiful but often mediocre. The food during the week wasn’t great, but I swear it seems like the dining hall staff were hung over Sunday mornings or something. Oh, well. Commuting for all future college experiences had some real advantages.

  3. Back in the days of young, broke, dumb, parenting, my oldest child liked melted cheese on cheerios (WIC foods). So yes, cheddar on cereal, toddler staple.

  4. Aldi or other basic cheese on sale=necessity. 13 year Great Grand Cheddar and smoked mozzarella sticks once or twice a year indulgence. WIC cheese was pretty good bot never tried it on cereal.

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