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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"

"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!"
Charles Ward Actually Curwen assuming his identity, The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward

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.

See also: Eating Machine, Perpetual-Motion Monster, The Needless

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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. 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, as it's implied they get all of the energy they need from sunlight.

    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, enters into an eating competition with his human sibling which results in David becoming broken.

    Literature 
  • In H.P. 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 Lirael, the Disreputable Dog and Mogget don't need to eat, but they sure like to. 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 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.
  • A kid in Super Stupor has this as his power. It's not very good, as while he doesn't need food and water to live, he still suffers hunger and thirst.
  • 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 pigs 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 

The DisembodiedUndead IndexFate Worse than Death
Easily Thwarted Alien InvasionSpeculative Fiction TropesElaborate Underground Base
Eating MachineFood TropesEating Pet Food

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