They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich
"You know what? He forgot his latte."
The characters order something arbitrary like salad or coffee, have a conversation, and then leave before ever touching their order. You will likely not notice this unless you happen to be very hungry when it happens; then it will drive you up the wall.
This also applies when a character gets a snack or something to drink, but you barely see them touch/eat it.
This is due to The Law of Conservation of Detail
as diners and restaurants are great places to stage a conversation between characters, but their eating isn't relevant to the plot. Of course, depending on the scene, it's possible all the eating simply takes place off camera. If there's a cut, and the food has been eaten afterwards, then that doesn't count for this trope. It's particularly infuriating in works that also employ Food Porn
Live-Action shows also have another problem to contend with: that being that food spoils easier in studio lighting. Therefore, most of the food used is a prop
, unless characters are specifically meant to eat it. Equally obviously, if a scene requires multiple takes (which includes shooting from more than one angle), you don't want the actors to be forced to continually stuff their faces, only to have to make them a brand new sandwich for the next take. Requiring the actors to eat the food can also create continuity problems in the event of retakes or editing (Skins
in particular has been mocked for a scene where a sandwich changes state every time the camera angle does). And if the actor were to have a big enough portion of food in their mouth, it might make dialogue harder to hear.
See also Forgets to Eat
, Late for School
Contrast Enemy Eats Your Lunch
and The Snack Is More Interesting
, where one party pointedly ignores the other in favour of eating, in order to aggravate them. Also see Lost Food Grievance
, for when wasting food is acknowledged in-universe. Not to be confused with They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character
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- This is actually enforced in alcoholic adverts; one of the many limitations in many countries is that no alcohol must be consumed during the advert. Once you notice this you'll never stop. Subverted in one such commercial where Neil Patrick Harris steps just off-camera so he can (audibly) enjoy his beer.
Anime & Manga
- Subverted in Naruto. When Sasuke goes out to look for Naruto one morning in the Land of Waves arc, Sakura calls after him, saying that he hasn't touched his breakfast, but then looks and sees that he's already eaten without her noticing it.
- The characters in Mahou Sensei Negima! tend to take their meals at the Chao Bao Zi or Starbooks. We rarely see them actually eat there (in vol. 3, the group has just ordered a round of coffees they left at the table).
- Played with in Monster, where the characters do comment on Tenma's tendency to leave his food untouched.
- In the Lupin III franchise, Zenigata is so obsessed with chasing Lupin, while eating at a cafe, if he notices Lupin and the gang, he leaves his food behind to chase after them.
- A major part of Sanji's backstory in One Piece was this. On the ship he served on, his fellow cooks would always eat the leftovers the customers didn't bother to finish, complaining of this very trope. Sanji just found it unsanitary and would throw them away instead. However when Zeff and he were later stranded on a rock formation with no way down and only limited food, Sanji realized why they did it; when you're out at sea, food is scarce and you gotta make every crumb count. Needless to say, he took the lesson to heart.
- Juna's difficulty with fast food (particularly burgers) in Earth Maiden Arjuna is a frequent subject, played for drama.
- During the Mythyrian Numbers Arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Yuma, Shark, and Kaito find a temple on top of a mountain where the Number they seek should be; while there, Yuma is quickly drawn to a pot of delicious-smelling soup cooking, only for an angry old man - Jinlon - to storm out and hit him with a cane, accusing him of trying to steal his lunch. However, when Jinlon realizes that Kaito is a Dragon user and Kaito realizes that Jinlon is the guardian of the Number, Jinlon quickly decides to duel him, disregarding his lunch completely. (Of course, Jinlon likely doesn't need to eat at all; when defeated, he is revealed to be the spirit of the Number itself, and vanishes as Kaito claims the card.)
- There's a comic where Wolverine and Captain America meet in a little diner to exchange information, and Wolverine mentions that the place has great pie. The waitress shows up, and since Cap isn't bothering with the secret identity stuff — his hood/mask is down, but he's got his scalemail under an open jacket — she recognizes him, is impressed, and they talk a bit, then she gets their orders and bustles off. Wolverine scornfully says that Cap probably hasn't paid for a meal since he revealed his secret identity to the world. Before the food arrives there's some kind of alarm and both heroes run out of the diner, Cap throwing down several dollar bills as he does so. Then, as Wolverine's about to flag down a car, he scolds Cap about taking the time to pay for food they never got to eat. Cap, being Cap, ignores this.
- Wolverine ends up doing this once. After spending weeks in the Canadian wilderness while being pursued by the vampire Bloodscream and the cyborg Cylla, he manages to reach a small town and immediately heads for the diner and orders a pile of burgers. He eats several before finding out that his motorcycle, which he had left at some gas station, has been delivered there. Then he runs out of the diner, throwing down enough money to cover the bill as he does so.
- Mercury from X-Men regularly visits a local cafe and orders coffee even though she doesn't (and can't) drink it since her mutation transformed her into a piece of sapient living metal. She explains to X-23 that she likes the warmth of the coffee and more importantly, doing something normal like going out for coffee helps her feel normal.
- In Life With Archie: The Married Life Issue #36, Archie orders a chocolate soda for himself, Betty and Veronica at Jughead's Chocklit Shoppe in the after-party, and he, Jughead and Reggie have a conversation while they wait. But as soon as the girls arrive with Kevin Keller and his husband, Clay Walker, something unexpected happens: It is discovered that Wendell, the man doing the dishes, is the gunman whom Agent Mitchell and his team have been pursuing, who now drops the dishes and points his gun at Kevin to Archie's surprise. With a Big "NO!", Archie jumps into the fray while knocking his chocolate soda on the table... right before he takes the bullet for Kevin and dies after Wendell is apprehended. The bitter irony is that while everyone mourns his death, the scene makes a final cut to the spilled chocolate soda on the table... the soda he never even got to drink with Betty or Veronica while he was still alive, with only one straw in the ice cream and the other two separated from the cup. They Wasted a Perfectly Good Soda, indeed.
Films — Animation
- Downplayed with Beauty and the Beast as the castle performs a humongous production number about serving Belle dinner; unless she was stuffing her face every time the camera cut away, she only gets to taste a couple dishes with her finger and eat the cherry off the top of a pie. It's sort of an unspoken rule in many musicals that you should just pretend the songs aren't part of the actual story. So while we're seeing the staff trot out all these dishes in front of Belle as they sing a grandiloquent, choreographed number about hospitality, in reality she's enjoying a quiet, satisfying meal as the staff wait in attendance. It's either that or Belle tried some samples during the performance, then had a proper meal afterwards.
- The Other Mother prepares a feast for Coraline, but she only takes one bite out of a chicken leg before it's replaced with a cake, of which she doesn't eat any, either. May be intentional, though, as the food in the other world is probably all fake.
- A later scene shows a big meal left on the table for Coraline. We don't see how much of it she ate, but she ate at least some of it and burped.
- There's another meal Coraline doesn't eat any of, and some popcorn, and a disgusting meal in the real world. However, the fact that Other Father is the only one to eat any of this is Foreshadowing to his true nature.
- In The Chipmunk Adventure, a Running Gag has Theodore ordering food, only to be pulled away for some reason before he can eat it.
- In Lilo & Stitch, the fat tourist never gets to eat his ice cream.
- In Pinocchio, while at Pleasure Island Pinocchio and Lampwick are seen eating an ice cream cone and a pie and a whole turkey respectively, once they discover the tent for "The Rough House" (where boys go to fight) they toss the food away after only a few bites each, probably thinking they would get more later since everything was free.
- Remy of Ratatouille cooked at least three different dishes in the first half hour of the movie yet always got interrupted trying to eat them. Indeed, it's only well after then that he gets to eat anything at all, when Linguini notices he looks dazed and gives him a piece of cheese.
Films — Live Action
- In Grosse Pointe Blank, this occurs when Martin Blank and Grocer meet at a diner. After being a complete jackass to the waitress about wanting a plain eggwhite omelette, he drops the plate on the floor when it arrives to distract Grocer (they both have guns on each other under the table) and leaves.
- Played straight in The 51st State, when Felix gives the traditional dish of fish and chips to Elmo, who looks at it with disgust, promptly throwing it out the car.
- The Wraith: the Sheriff has probably a couple bites into the standard fast food meal when the local troublemakers start kicking off, and he has to ditch it on the road to follow them.
- Defied in the movie Dirty Harry: Harry's too Badass to give up his hot dog just because some guys are robbing a bank, and noshes on it while engaging them in a gunfight.
- In Run, Fat Boy, Run!, Dennis is given a gigantic plate of spaghetti and bolognese to carbo-load to train a marathon. He flatly refuses to eat it, and ends up regretting this after training is over.
- In Home Alone, Kevin makes a nice big bowl of hot macaroni and cheese as a Christmas meal. He has just enough time to pick up his knife and fork before the robbers show up. He leaves the meal on the table and never touches it.
- Averted, in the Twilight movie. Some hard core fans were annoyed when they saw members of the Non-Eater Cullen Clan chewing in the lunch room scenes. It's believed that real fries were on the table, and some of the actors got hungry. Alternately, it could just be the screenwriter putting more thought into it than the original author did — it makes sense that a group trying to pass themselves off as normal kids would pretend to eat even if they didn't need to.
- In I Robot, Del Spooner accepts a cup of coffee, which he even prepares by liberally spooning sugar into. At the end of his visit, he thanks his host for the coffee, and leaves without having taken a sip. What's odd is that an earlier scene clearly shows him eating a whole pie, which foreshadows the fact that he has a robot arm which needs extra power. Presumably, he just forgot about the coffee.
- The actor for Pansy Parkinson from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince once said in a magazine article that every new take they did of the Slug Club scene, she got a new piece of chocolate cake on her plate she could eat.
- Used comically in Our Man Flint, who goes to Marseilles and a series of restaurants, ordering bouillabaise to find a specific mix of ingredients he found as a clue - he repeatedly takes one spoon's worth, sometimes just smelling it, and asks for the check.
- In the first Jurassic Park, no one eats the meal Hammond provides as they're too busy arguing over the ethics of cloning dinosaurs for fun and profit. (The scene also comes immediately after they were all shown a cow being devoured alive by velociraptors, so they might not have been hungry for other reasons.) Later, the kids also don't get to eat very much before the raptors enter the visitor's center and force them to run and hide. Hammond and Ellie do get to eat some of the ice cream before it melts, though.
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, there is a whole scene about Sam cooking a rabbit stew for Frodo and himself (that really disgusts Gollum). However, we never see if they get to eat it or not before Faramir's men attack them.
- They do eat up the stew in the book.
- In Grease, in the second sequence at the Frosty Palace, Danny and Sandy each order a double Polar burger with everything on it and a cherry soda with ice cream. The rest of the group then shows up and settles at their table. But since Danny wanted to be alone with his date all along, the two of them just up and left without touching their food. To make matters worse, it's implied that they didn't even pay for their order; Frenchy was somehow stuck with a common check for the whole group (the others also ordered food, but at least they seemed to eat a little of it).
- Martin Weir in Get Shorty goes to an extreme with this trope, making a big show of ordering an off-menu omelette and taking off before it arrives.
- Dan in Mulholland Dr. is so preoccupied with telling his dream to his friend that he doesn't even touch his breakfast at the diner.
- In The Room, Johnny makes sandwiches for his friends, but they never eat them. In The Room: The Game the next day after making the sandwiches, they are rotten.
- Deliberately played straight with Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat. The title character states that he does this deliberately with tea and coffee because he likes the way the warm beverage feels. Naturally, being a vampire, he can't actually drink it anyway, so it's always wasted.
- Same thing happens in Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends. Jody, a newly-turned vampire, has realized her body will automatically reject food and drink. So when she has dinner with Tommy, she only orders a coffee and just spends the meal "contemplating" it.
- In Flowers for Algernon, Charlie pays for a meal without eating it after seeing how the restaurant treats a slow busboy.
- This happens all the time in American Psycho. A lot of the action takes place in high-class restaurants, where course after course is brought and usually left untouched. This is used to emphasize the extremely materialistic and wasteful natures of the characters.
- In Twilight, Bella learns that the Cullens buy lunch every day to put up appearances of being human, and then toss them out. She even watches Alice dump her entire lunch uneaten. Why the vampires bother is a mystery, since anyone watching them even casually—as Bella does—would see that they never eat their lunches anyway.
- Near the end of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, we see Silas — whose exact nature is strongly hinted at, but never specified — and Bod in a restaurant together. Bod has pizza; Silas orders a green salad which he pushes around with his fork, and a glass of water with which he moistens his lips.
- In "Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington" there's a scene where several of Honor's senior officers look on in wonder as she builds a rather impressive sandwich to fuel her overclocked Heavyworlder metabolism — that she gets to take one bite from before the general quarters alarm sounds, sending them all rushing off to their action stations, and leaving the sandwich dumped on the floor.
- In the Saki story "The Chaplet", a gourmet chef watches in horror as this happens to his entire meal because of a violinist playing a popular tune. He loses it when the violinist starts an encore, dragging him offstage and drowning him in a soup tureen.
- The Robotech novelization milked this for all it was worth, giving a nearly Food Porn-ish description of the steak dinner Ben Dixon leaves behind as he heads out on his final sortie. He even tells it "I'll be right back!"
- The emergency worker version of this is discussed in one book of The Bobbsey Twins where Freddie and Flossie are Playing House and, right after Flossie puts "dinner" on he table, Freddie declares that there's a fire and, as a fireman, he needs to toss the dinner out the window so he can go to the fire.
- In the first Gaunt's Ghosts novel, the General in overall command of the theater had a samovar of recaff large enough that he could have given a cup to every single soldier under his command. In his first scene, he takes a sip from one cup, declares that its gone stale, and orders the entire samovar dumped out and refilled with a fresh batch.
Live Action TV
- Similar to the above Anne Rice example, this is common for vampires in both Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem. Vampiric digestive systems can only process blood, so they can't eat at formal events. Part of the Masquerade is learning the slight-of-hand needed to keep people from noticing you never eat — and a suggestion for botching a social roll in Vampire: The Masquerade was for the other guests to realize exactly that.
- At least in Vampire: The Masquerade, some vampires have the ability to keep human food down for a couple hours, though they would eventually have to vomit it back up. Some Nosferatu with this ability even managed to weaponize it by projectile vomiting on their enemies.
- One story has the vampire narrator mentioning a disgusting alcoholic beverage called a Rusty Nail that the mayor's ghoul servant favors. Later on the ghoul becomes a vampire himself. The narrator still pours him a Rusty Nail when he arrives, as a sentimental gesture, so he can hold it and still feel human.
- In the British comedy sketch Dinner for One, the butler James serves her mistress Miss Sophie a plate of Mulligatawny soup, chicken, North Sea haddock, and finally some fruit, all of which comes with an appropriate wine. All this goes so fast on stage, however, that Miss Sophie barely gets to eat anything, and James carries most of it away again (and sends some of it flying when he trips over the tiger hat). Also, Miss Sophie doesn't drink nearly as much as James, but then again, drinking half as much as James may already be hazardous, for a 90-year-old lady no less.
- When you first meet Zaalbar in Knights of the Old Republic, he's waiting for his food to get in. Mission orders him to come stand up for her when she gets bullied by a couple of Black Vulkars. Zaalbar complains about how his food just showed up, but does it anyway. Then, after a brief conversation with the main character, Mission tells Zaalbar they're leaving. When Zaalbar complains that he still hasn't gotten to eat his food yet, Mission just brushes him off and says they'll get something to eat at the Hidden Bek base.
- In Return to Castle Wolfenstein, you quite often end up interrupting nazis (especially officers) while they've got piping hot meals on their tables. This is to your advantage, for both In-Universe and gameplay reasons.
- In The Sims series, serving a group meal will always result in 8 or so servings, no matter how many people actually live in the house. Leftover food WILL need to be thrown away before it goes bad. Thankfully one of the later expansions for The Sims 2 allows you to put the leftover food in the fridge and eat it later.
- In Skies of Arcadia, one of the optional airship battles is against a giant Squid. As it loses HP, the tentacles start flying off, prompting a hungry Vyse to mutter about what a waste it is.
- Did Shepard ever touch that glass of beer in Mass Effect 2?
- In the manual comic for Syd of Valis, Yuko is the middle of eating pudding for lunch when she hears the urgent voice of her late friend Reiko, and has to set out on her new adventure without finishing her pudding.
- In Megatokyo, this is done repeatedly with Miho Tohya's food, which fueled speculation about what exactly she is. It was practically a reveal when she was first shown to actually take a bite of something, six years into the comic's run.
- It's equally strange that Ping—who is a robot with a literally photographic memory—doesn't notice Miho's untouched cake, but Piro (the notoriously oblivious) does.
- Dead Winter: Monday and Liz meet while Liz is still a waitress, but Monday spots some of his adversaries outside and disappears without eating...or paying. Liz eventually gets payback.
- During a peace negotiation in Drowtales Zala'ess offers Quain'tana a bottle of high-quality liquor, which Quain proceeds to pour on the ground to make a point, something Zala immediately lampshades by lamenting that with everything going on they probably won't see such quality hooch again for quite a while.
- The Simpsons:
- In the Thanksgiving Episode, it is both played straight out loud and averted in a home-based example. Mr. Burns is seated in front of a spread for easily a dozen people or more, yet only has a few slices of turkey since he's saving room for Smithers' pumpkin pie.
- In "Lisa's Pony", after letting Lisa down, Homer orders her a "Mount Bellyache" at the ice cream parlor, a sundae so enormous that the clerk has to bring it to their table with a wheelbarrow. But Lisa is so upset, she only eats one bite of it.
- In the Futurama episode "Roswell That Ends Well", Fry and his suppose-to-be-Grandfather order a coffee and meal respectively from Fry's will-be-Grandma, but after panicking over the potential hazards inherent in the diner Fry and co. run out before ever receiving their order. Notable for showing the will-be-Grandma's upset reaction to this.
- However, this trope has nothing at all to do with...
- Happens occasionally in the later seasons of Daria at the local pizza place, what with Daria stealing Tom from Jane. This leads to a good amount of arguing and untouched pizza.
- On one occasion Daria is left sitting there alone and depressed. She takes her drink and pours it on top of her pizza, having clearly lost her appetite.
- Subverted in a Kids in the Hall sketch: two policemen are eating in a diner when they recognize three other customers as wanted criminals, who realize that they've been spotted. They immediately start racing to finish their meals before beginning the chase.
- Happened a couple of times in Barbie & The Diamond Castle. Especially annoying when the heroines sing for their supper, supposedly starving, yet leave when mildly harassed by a pair of Lounge Lizard twins, without even touching their food.
- Same in Barbie: Princess Charm School. When Blair, Isla and Hadley leave their table after lunch in the cafeteria scene, their plates are still completely full and untouched.
- Occasionally happens in Code Lyoko. Most notably, the heroes sometimes order coffee from the machine and end up throwing it away due to an emergency.
- Odd doesn't like this, though, and once spends a whole episode complaining that he didn't have time to eat.
- Happens in the Opening Credits of The Real Ghostbusters. Winston is shown about to enjoy a burger when the alarm rings, and he drops it to get to work, instead of, oh, I dunno, taking it with him? However, the burger doesn't go completely to waste: Slimer gobbles it up.
- In Bob's Burgers, Bob talks a bank robber down to giving himself up on the condition that he goes to Bob's restaurant across the street and tries one of his burgers. After awkwardly manoeuvring a huddle of hostages across the road, the guy has about one small bite of a burger, does a lot of talking, and then makes a run for it.
- Tex Avery's 1936 Warner Bros. cartoon Page Miss Glory has a scene of an obese man demanding service, followed by three waiters rushing and piling food on the man's table. The man takes just a bite out of an olive and leaves.
- There is an odd case of this in a Cartoon Network original Droopy short "Thanks a Latte": The Wolf refuses to give brewster Droopy a tip, so Droopy annoys him into submission and scares him into staying far, far away from Droopy. Droopy interprets the Wolf's actions as this trope, as he left his latte behind while retreating.
- Subverted in an early episode of Young Justice where Batman and Superman are having a talk about Superboy after ordering some dessert. After Bats tells Supes that the kid needs his father, Superman angrily storms out...but then tells the waitress that he'll take the pie to go.
- In the King of the Hill episode "Raise The Steaks" Hank has made a submarine sandwich from the meat he got from the organic market, but before he has a chance to enjoy it he is interrupted by a phone call from the hippies who run the store and leaves it behind.
- Once per Episode in Detective Bogey, the Mexican restaurant owner will cook a tortilla on the house for his pal police commissioner, only for the latter to leave in an emergency, prompting the former to eat the tortilla himself.
- In the Steven Universe episode "Together Breakfast", Steven went through a series of complicated events to get the rest of the Crystal Gems to eat his stack of waffles together. One of the events involved his stack getting possessed and turned into an Eldritch Abomination. At the end of the episode, the gang makes another stack of waffles, and when they finally sit down to eat it......they change their mind and decide to order pizza instead because it reminded them too much about the events earlier in the episode.
- In the Gravity Falls episode "Love God", two characters order some chili fries at a local diner. The food gets spiked with a Love Potion; they each eat one fry, fall hopelessly in love, and leave without eating the rest. Admittedly, magical interference is a better justification then in most cases, but it's still a little sad.
- Incidentally, can easily be Truth in Television for business lunches and interviews held during a lunch. You never want to get caught with your mouth full of food when asked a question, you can't eat hurriedly (not proper), and you can't hold up everyone else while you finish the current course. Very painful for people who were brought up that throwing away food was one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
- Thankfully, today's increasingly casual business world means it's no longer uncommon for bosses or clients to say "Alright, now let's eat, huh?" once the important stuff is finished.
- This happens all the time. It's called breakfast and a clock.
- Happens on a fairly regular basis for people in jobs that require you to be 'on duty' your entire shift, such as police, security guards, firefighters, etc.
- One children's photo book about the workings of a fire station showed the firefighters preparing a delicious-looking meal of spaghetti and meatballs, and sitting down to it, only to be interrupted by a callout. Their dog guards it while they're out.
- A famous Murphy's Law corollary for emergency workers:
1: No matter what time it is, the next call will come in right when you're ordering food.
2: Always order everything "to go."
- A common trick among Basic Training instructors in the US military is to declare "You're done eating when I'm done eating" while their recruit trainees file into the mess hall. The instructor will then pick up something small, like an apple, and start to eat it. This causes the recruits to rush through their meal and very often leave half of it on their trays.
- Similarly, requiring trainees to finish eating at the same time. If one guy finishes eating first, everybody else has to grab their trays and leave. If the table that sat down before yours finishes, you are finished as well. This forces trainees to be aware of each other's actions and work as a team. Or it causes the one out-of-touch member of the team to be hated and singled out by the others.
- You have about 20 minutes from the minute something gets into your stomach to when your brain tells you you're full. If you're a slow eater or just pile on at an all-you-can-eat place, this may happen.