Eating Optional

"Feeding a normal army is a problem of logistics. With zombies, it is an asset. Feeding is why they fight. Feeding is why they are feared."
Jadar, ghoulcaller of Nephalia, Magic: The Gathering, "Walking Corpse" flavor text"

This trope is a trait of some supernatural beings. These beings are not bound by the natural limitation of needing to feed to survive, yet for one reason or another, they do so anyway.

The being in question might have once been human, and eats because they still enjoy the taste of food. Or they might eat because they are among Muggles and need to maintain the Masquerade.

In stranger cases, the being has no need to eat but still hungers. If this is the case, then they can be vulnerable to a Fate Worse Than Death. They can be trapped or imprisoned without food indefinitely, forever starving, yet never starving to death.

Such beings also vary in intelligence and in their choice of food. Some are as sentient as any human and enjoy the same foods normal humans do, while others are mindless man-eaters.

If a story has man-eating monsters, then having this trait makes them even more monstrous. Most natural beings eat so they can survive. These guys don't even have that excuse.

A Sub-Trope of The Needless. See also Eating Machine and Perpetual-Motion Monster.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Vexille the nanite-transformed metallized humans still eat as a way of maintaining a semblance of normalcy in their lives, despite no longer needing food.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: Yuki Nagato is an artificial humanoid interface, which is either a fancy way of saying she's a Ridiculously Human Robot, or simply an alien. Whichever is the case, she explains (to Kyon) that she doesn't need to eat, and only does so to blend in, which is necessary in order to observe Haruhi.
  • Outlaw Star: Melfina is a highly advanced bio-android, created by Professor Gwen Khan. Even though eating isn't necessary to her vital function, she finds she enjoys certain foods, after being prompted by Jim to try some. She was even surprised to learn she could distinguish different tastes.
  • One Piece: Brook doesn't need to eat since his devil fruit already keeps him alive (though he claims milk helps him regenerate).
  • Anpanman gets sustinance out of the red bean paste inside his head. However, when he was a child, he mentioned eating a good amount of food from a picnic lunch he had earlier.
  • In Attack on Titan, the Titans don't need to eat, as it's implied they get all of the energy they need from sunlight. They don't even have any digestive organs. They still eat humans, and only humans, then vomit out what's left of their victims after a few hours. Why they do this is unknown.
  • Digimon Tamers: Rio claims that you don't need to eat in the Digital World because you don't have a physical body that needs sustenance. You can eat if you want but it serves no purpose. Given that Henry and Takato manage to escape from a cave by deciding that they don't actually need to breathe air and could breathe water instead if they wanted, Rio's probably right.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, the Namekians, a race of plant-like slug people, only need to drink water to live. Piccolo is seen eating fish, however and he can eat the oh-so-useful Senzu beans with no problem, and his father King Piccolo enjoyed a feast in Dragon Ball.
  • In Death Note, Shinigami have no need to eat, since their species can't be killed by any of the things that would typically result in the death of a human. Nonetheless Ryuk enjoys gorging himself on apples whenever he gets the chance; unlike other examples of this trope, it doesn't make him more likeable or more human. Since he's stuffing his face without purpose, it displays that Ryuk is self-centered and greedy, not helped by his table manners (he can eat an entire apple, core and all, in just a few bites) or the fact that apples in general have a drug-like effect on him. Other Shinigami also enjoy eating human food, offhand one of the Shinigami who shows up later enjoys chocolate.

    Comic Books 
  • In many incarnations of Superman, Supes and other Kryptonians don't need to eat (since they get all the energy they need from the sun), but often will out of habit or because they enjoy the taste.
  • A particularly horrifying example comes from Empowered. Willy Pete, a fire elemental, has stated that he doesn't need to eat, but he still likes to. However, he burns so hot that almost anything he tries to eat turns to ashes when he tries. He gets around this by cannibalizing super beings, because their flesh is just cooked nicely by him. And that's not even getting what else he does to them...

    Film 
  • In A.I.: Artificial Intelligence David, a robot child, not only doesn't need to eat, but really shouldn't: he enters an eating competition with his human sibling which results in David getting broken.
  • A few versions of this show up in Pirates of the Caribbean. In the first movie Barbarossa's crew are cursed with this as they are physically incapable of eating as food turns to ash when they do. Unfortunately for them they don't need to eat anymore but still feel hunger pains.
    • In the second and third movies Davy Jones crew also don't seem to need to eat. They might just eat fish but considering that decapitation won't kill them food is probably a non-issue.

    Literature 
  • In HP Lovecraft's story The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, the protagonist confronts Ward after exploring the catacombs under his ancestor Joseph Curwen's farm. "Ward" is actually Curwen, who has killed the real Ward and assumed his identity. When he mentions the abominations that have gone unfed for the month since his commitment to the insane asylum, he replies:
    Damn 'em, they do eat, but they don't need to! That's the rare part! A month, you say, without food? Lud, Sir, you be modest! ... Devil take ye, those cursed things have been howling down there ever since Curwen was done for a hundred and fifty-seven years gone!
  • When Harry Potter visits Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, there's a banquet of rotten food laid out for the ghosts. Harry figures they let the food rot so that the flavors are strong enough for the ghosts to actually taste.
  • Death of Discworld likes takeaway curries. Don't think about how he manages to swallow, or where the food goes next.
  • Older Than Feudalism: In The Bible, Jesus ate with his disciples after his resurrection to prove he was real and not a ghost or vision. The pre-resurrection Jesus did get hungry, as seen with the temptation in the wilderness, but after getting better he no longer needed to eat.
    • Word of Dante is that Christian believers in heaven will be able to eat as much as they like, but not actually need it nor need to worry about getting fat.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry once meets up with a vampire in a bar to thrash out the details of their duel. When Harry expresses his surprise that the vampire orders a beer, that vampire explains that he doesn't derive nourishment from the beer, but it sure tastes good.
  • Shows up in a couple of works by Brandon Sanderson. In Elantris, the zombie-like Elantrians don't die from starvation, but are even hungrier than normal. Every time a new Elantrian enters the city, the others jump him and fight over the small basket of food included in the funerary rites. The only reason they don't eat each other is that for some reason, Elantrian flesh tastes so horrible that not even the hungriest can keep it down.
    • In Warbreaker, the Returned only need one Breath (part of a person's soul) a week to survive, but most eat food anyway because food tastes good.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Melisandre doesn't need to eat, but does so to conceal this fact. She comes off as though she Forgets to Eat, which doesn't raise the same questions.
  • Dead Boy from Simon R. Green's Nightside series and other books doesn't need to eat, but he does so because acting like a living being helps him feel more human.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide describes at length how zombies not only don't need to eat, but are incapable of digesting what they do, which leads to distended stomachs that eventually burst open due to pressure. The zombies go on eating due to the virus messing with their brains.
  • Free Magic elementals in The Old Kingdom don't need to eat, though many of them enjoy it. Mogget and the Disreputable Dog (Free Magic beings with the shape of a cat and dog, respectively) are generally fond of foods appropriate for their apparent species, and less pleasant entities may snack on people. Lirael is more than a little annoyed when she finds this out, given the trouble she had to go to to keep the Dog fed.
  • In Dragon Bones, Oreg is near-immortal, so he doesn't need to eat. When he pretends to be a normal human being, he can eat to avoid suspicion.
  • In Immortals After Dark, all races of immortals eat normal food as children, but some stop as they become fully immortal. Females are required to eat, however, if they wish to become pregnant, and presumably until give birth. Among the non-eating races are vampires, Valkyries, and succubae/incubi.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lt. Commander Data eats even though he does not have to, in order to more closely emulate human behavior.
  • In an early episode of Lois and Clark, Lois asks Superman if he eats food, to which he answers, "I don't have to, but I like to." And of course, if people never saw Clark Kent eating, that might begin to raise eyebrows.
  • In Supernatural, angels do not have to eat, but some choose to do so as they enjoy it.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, vampires only need to drink blood, but some enjoy eating human food and drinking alcohol.
  • Played with in Stargate Atlantis with the Wraith. They don't eat they "feed" which while functions essentially the same, ends up being its own distinct process. Though one wraith is shown to enjoy eating regular food though he gains no sustenance from doing so.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, Outsiders are sustained by energies from their home plane, and do not need to eat (though they can choose to do so if they wish). Demons in particular are fond of hunting and devouring other creatures, since they are Always Chaotic Evil and enjoy inflicting suffering.
    • Ghouls have an overwhelming hunger for dead flesh, but suffer no ill effects for not consuming it. The same applies to some other undead creatures.
  • Most Tyranid organisms in Warhammer40000 don't actually have a functioning digestive system, as they're bio-engineered killing machines and such a thing would tkae space and energy away from muscles, reinforced endo- and exoskeletons, weapon-biomorphs etc. If they aren't killed by the enemy first, they will eventually starve to death. Many of them still have instinctive behaviour to feed, though, as it makes them attack the enemy even when not under control of the synapse creatures. The Ripper swarms are the most obvious example, as their whole purpose is to eat any biomass they come across in order to transport it to the reclamation pools to be digested and fed to the Tyranid hive ships.
  • In In Nomine angels and demons don't need to eat, although they often do so to maintain the Masquerade while on Earth, or, especially in the case of demons, because they like it.

    Video Games 
  • Several youkai races in the Touhou games have this trait. According to the Universe Compendium Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, fairies don't need to eat, but do so in an attempt to imitate humans. Magicians also don't need to eat. Alice Margatroid eats anyway, as she is a former human (at least according to the book) who became a youkai magician and still isn't used to not needing to.
  • The darkspawn in Dragon Age don't actually need to eat, the taint they carry sustains them. But they like to eat people alive anyway and are even known to eat each other if there are no people around.
  • In Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Rei is a Big Eater. You will always see her talking about food of some kind even if the conversation has nothing to do with it. Tragically, it's because she's in denial. She's actually Dead All Along by the time you meet her, and eating is her way of convincing herself that she's alive.
  • During the fantasy counterpart of Thanksgiving in World of Warcraft, one of the Forsaken chefs wonders why they go into so much trouble preparing the feast considering that, being undead, they don't need to eat anymore. He ends up shrugging it as "tradition is tradition".

    Web Comics 
  • In Kid Radd, sprites can eat and drink, though they won't suffer if they don't. Word of God explained that since sprites are human creations, they're imprinted with various human drives and habits.
  • One strip of Super Stupor has a homeless kid who doesn't need food or water to live. It's not as nice as it sounds.
    Scientist: You never get hungry?
    Child: Oh, no. I get very hungry.
    Scientist: But it doesn't hurt to—
    Child: My pain is the stuff of legends.
  • Ma-ri of Orange Marmalade is a vampire living in a society that fears and hates her kind, so she has to hide the truth at all times. To keep up this, she eats human food in her classroom every day at lunch, than flees to the bathroom to throw it up as her body naturally rejects it and drinks fresh pig's blood from prepared blood packs before returning to class.

     Web Original 
  • In Darkmatter2525's God and Jeffrey clip "If Man Obeyed God", Adam and Eve refuse to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and remain immortal. Thousands of years later, God (who'd actually expected them to eat it) tries to talk Adam into eating the apple after all, only to be told that Adam gave up eating centuries ago: he can't die, and not eating means he doesn't have to deal with the icky business of doing his business, so why bother?

    Western Animation 
  • In Invader Zim, being a robot, GIR doesn't need to eat, but he does anyway out of enjoyment of Earth food.
  • The gods of Class of the Titans eat, even though they don't need to. Hercules is partial to fried chicken, and Athena bakes.
  • The dark god in robot form, Unicron, from Transformers doesn't need to eat anything, being a god, but does it anyway. He's a particularly horrifying example too. He eats entire worlds because he hates everything in creation that isn't him.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Clark mentions that he doesn't have to eat but does anyway because he likes it.
  • In Steven Universe, none of the Crystal Gems need to eat because their gems create their bodies and provide them with energy. Amethyst does it anyway because she enjoys it while Pearl refuses to eat because she thinks it's disgusting.