A classic tactic of psychological warfare.
You've just met someone. They don't know what to make of you. They happen to be eating at the time. What do you do?
Take their food. It's a step beyond just invading personal space, and it shows who the alpha dog is. Unless it is really called for, it comes across as very insulting and a way to make the offensive party appear unlikable. Frequently the victim is too stunned by the audacity of such a move to protest.
May overlap with The Snack Is More Interesting and Lost Food Grievance. See also The Bully, who is known to beat people up for their lunch money. Food Interrogation is when somebody tries to bribe another person with food to get information.
Compare Filching Food for Fun (when it's done in secret for fun and excitement or out of petty revenge), Robbing the Dead (when a character takes food from someone they have killed) and Villainous Face Hold, another way of asserting dominance by invading personal space.
Contrast They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich, where a meal is abandoned as the result of a conflict, and No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine, a psychological gambit based on offering the hero food.
- In the introduction of Dark Gary on Nintendo Week, he nukes and eats Allison's lunch shamelessly. Using a microwave that he had to unplug Gary's TV mid-game to use.
- One line of Realtor.com commercials shows us how the people who try to compete with you for the best real estate are just as evil as the people who try to beat you at sports. Once they have lost, they will vent their frustration by doing something petty, and in one commercial this takes the form of stealing food off the plate of the couple who bought the house they wanted.
- In Assassination Classroom, Koro-sensei tends to overreact when the food he brings back from overseas winds up lost or stolen. In his introductory chapter, Karma baits Koro-sensei into a trap by stealing the gelato he bought from Italy and eating it in front of him during a quiz.
- In Death Note there is L's (cat)fight with Misa. "You can call me whatever you like but I'm still taking your cake."
- While not outright an enemy at that point, Haizaki from Kuroko's Basketball is shown in a flashback stealing main character Kuroko's food at the table the latter's sharing with the other Generation of Miracles' players. He even makes a point of saying he eats other people's food just because it tastes better (as opposed to Aomine, who asserts he only does that when he's actually hungry). Kuroko doesn't mind the food stealing, but it's still clearly used as a way to remind the readers how much of a jerk Haizaki is.
- Good Luck Girl!:
- Near the start of the story, Momiji helps herself to Ichiko's birthday cake while explaining how other people are affected by the latter absorbing their happiness energy.
- Justified in a later chapter. In order to gain an advantage in a swimming contest, Momiji eats half of a magic meal that transforms the user into either a fish or a mermaid, depending on how much was eaten. Since she only ate half of it, Ichiko eats the other half to transform herself into a mermaid as well.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2016), Ganondorf helps himself to Hyrule Castle’s tea when he revives Princess Zelda.
- Tubby and Willy both eat Lulu's food in an episode of the Little Lulu anime, with a tray of sandwiches that Lulu was preparing to have.
- In an episode of MegaMan NT Warrior, a character's establishing moment when barging in is to eat Maysa's lunch.
- In Naruto, Jirobo delays delivering a finishing blow to Choji long enough to take and eat Chouji's last bag of chips in front of him. This is less for psychological warfare reasons (since they're already fighting to the death) and more just to be a dick, although he does claim to be hungry from burning chakra in the fight. Also, this slams down hard on one of Chouji's Berserk Buttons and is promptly followed by Jirobo's death.
- Pokémon: The Series:
- The Squirtle Squad make their debut by beating up Team Rocket and eating their lunch right in front of them.
- Georgia (a rival character) helps herself to our heroes' breakfast just to show her disdain.
- Ranma ½ has Picolet Chardin II whose family turns this into their martial arts style.
- In Sailor Moon Stars, when Sailor Aluminium Siren and Sailor Lead Crow attack a TV show host who arrived to Usagi's house under the guise of a pizza delivery guy, Siren's first action is... to eat one of the pizzas, much to Lead Crow's exasperation.
- Samurai Champloo: Mugen digs in uninvited to the lunch of some Yakuza thugs. When the predictable response follows, their boss is so impressed by his badassery he invites him for dinner.
- In the first episode for World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman, when Satsuki claims she's not hungry, Urushibara starts eating her fries. When Satsuki protests, Urushibara says the fries would otherwise go to waste. Moroha agrees, and starts eating them as well.
- Parodied to hell and back with Cromartie High School. Takashi drops his pencil, and Yutaka picks it up and eats it to assert dominance. Takashi cannot beleive what just happened. Yutaka then eats all of Takashi's pencils at once!
- Asterix and the Great Crossing has the protagonists doing this to the pirates, whose captain had an elaborate birthday feast laid out but is robbed of all but a single sausage.
- In one Birds of Prey story, Black Canary and Wildcat are having lunch in Singapore while pretending to be drug dealers as part of a plan to prevent a drug shipment from reaching Gotham. A detective, thinking they really are drug dealers since they were seen in the company of a notable suspected (as in everyone knows but there's no concrete evidence) drug dealer, sits down and helps himself to some of Dinah's chili crab and tells them they should leave Singapore immediately and never come back.
- In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the unnamed hitman who would become the Joker nonchalantly picks up an apple dropped by Andrea Beaumont right before a horrified Andrea discovers that he murdered her father. The way he casually starts munching on it as she screams is chilling.
- In Kung Fu Panda, this is the strategy that Master Shifu eventually hits on as the best way to motivate Big Eater Po. He gives Po a bowl of dumplings and deftly snatches them away from him before he can eat them. Cue a Training Montage of the two Chopstick Fencing over dumplings.
- Pinocchio: Honest John takes the apple Pinocchio is bringing to the teacher and eats it as he talks him into becoming an actor instead, then gives him the core. Given how much he's bombarding him, in the meantime, with fake promises, this is a subtle way to showcase both his thieving attitude and his disrespect without Pinocchio getting either or him wanting Pinocchio to realise that he is insulting him in his bamboozled face.
- In The Simpsons Movie, Homer, not being one to pass an opportunity for free food and taking advantage of his neighbor, steals a handful of Flanders' fries at Krusty Burger.
- At least one tale involving the Bakedanuki has him taking the form of a guest invited to a wedding or some other banquet in order to gorge on all the avaible food, leaving nothing to the others.
- In Greek Mythology, the harpies were sent to plague King Phineus of Thrace for revealing the secrets of the gods—whenever he would try to eat, they would swoop down and snatch his food away, spoiling any remnants to make them inedible. Eventually two sons of the wind god Boreas chased them away, and the goddess Iris promised that they would leave Phineus alone from now on.
- In a discussion of vampire folklore, one author noted a tale in which a bloodsucker invited itself into some villagers' home just as they were sitting down for dinner. It came in, sat at down at their table, ate all of their food off their plates (even sucking the marrow out of the bones) and then left without saying a word.
- In various Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, after defeating an opponent, you can rummage through their belongings and steal their Provisions, which can boost a few points to your stamina.
- Caverns of the Snow Witch and The Forest of Doom both had encounters in the mountains where you barge into Hill Men roasting meat across a campfire, where the Hill Men will drop what they're doing and attack you. If you defeat them, you can help yourself to the roast they're prepping for some quick Stamina gain.
- Space Assassin have you defeating a couple of Cyrus' guards outside a larder, and then you're given the option to raid the larder for food.
- The Art of War (Sun Tzu) encourages robbing the enemy of their supplies, as it feeds your army while depriving the enemy of theirs. In the past food storage and transportation was much more labor-intensive with a lot more loss and a much higher opportunity cost. You would expend a lot of food getting a small amount of food from your lands to where your army is. Thus, the adage says that 1 bag of rice from the enemy is worth 20 from your home nation - because getting 1 bag to you in the field will cost you the other 19.
- In Blossom, Burke advises the nephew of a friend how to survive in prison, as well as paying the prison Big Bad to protect him. When an inmate tries intimidating the kid during lunch and the Big Bad steps in to stop it, the kid deliberately grabs the cake off the inmate's plate and eats it.
- Doctor Who Expanded Universe: In the book Verdigris, when chatting with Verdigris at a Chinese restaurant, the Master absconds with both his lunch and the monster's. And for the final insult, he sticks the monster with the bill.
- In Horatio Hornblower series, one of the first affronts committed to Hornblower as a midshipman by the senior-most midshipman was his tendency to help himself to pieces of the other midshipman's food — right off of their plates. The antipathy between them eventually reaches the point where Horatio challenges the other man to a duel.
- Seen from the other side in The Iron Teeth. Blacknail responds to a bandit speaking disrespectfully of Saeter by stealing his food.
- Mass Effect: Deception has Cerberus assassin Kai Leng eating a bowl of Anderson's cereal when he sneaks into his apartment to bug it. It also cemented his status as a really petty guy.
- In the Peter Straub novella "Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff", a rich man hires two eccentric hitmen to kill his wife and her lover. When they arrive at his home, they quickly polish off his lavish breakfast and tell him to make himself some toast.
- Arthur Dent tells an anecdote about this in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. After purchasing a bag of train station biscuits (cookies), Dent sits down at a table with a stranger and reads a newspaper. The stranger reaches over, opens the bag, and eats one of the cookies without comment. Dent, stunned, can only react by eating one himself. The two men go back and forth eating the cookies without comment until they're all gone, and they exchange meaningful looks before the man leaves. Only when Dent himself prepares to leave does he pick up his newspaper and discover his own unopened bag of biscuits. Adams claimed numerous times that this incident happened to him in real life in 1976. However, it is almost identical to a pre-existing urban legend.
- In Unique, Clauss makes his opinion of werewolf culture very plain by commenting "this is our tradition" and then stealing Gunther's food and eating it with his hands.
- The song "Haunted House" sung by Jumpin' Gene Simmons:
In my kitchen my stove was a-blazin' hot,
Coffee was a-boilin' in the pot.
The grease had melted in the pan,
Had a hunk a-meat right in my hand.
From outer space there sat a man,
On the hot stove with the pots and pans.
"Say, that's hot" I began to shout.
He drank a-hot coffee right from the spout,
He ate the raw meat right from my hand,
Drank the hot grease from the frying pan.
Looked at me said "You better run,
"And don't be here when the mornin' comes."
- In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin is eating his lunch, only for Hobbes to swoop in, beat him up and take his lunch.
- In Garfield, pet cat Garfield constantly steals Jon's food.
- In one Peanuts strip Linus is asking, "Who took my group of grapes?" Lucy corrects him that it's called a "bunch" of grapes...as she eats his grapes right in front of him. Then she tosses the emptied grape tendril at him as she leaves.
- Santino Marella assaulting Jerry Lawler at the commentary desk of Monday Night Raw and running off with his subway sandwich, mocking him before taking a bite of it.
- As a Heel, Big E. Langston takes a bite out of Theodore Long's Hardees thick-burger and lists all what's in the burger while Teddy gives him an annoyed look.
- There is an urban legend circulating in many a country, known at Snopes.com as "pinched cookies". A stranger comes to an old lady's table at a cafe and keeps helping himself to what she thinks are her cookies. When the stranger leaves, she finds out her cookies are unopened.
- A couple in the Assassin's Creed series:
- Early in Assassin's Creed III, protagonist Haytham is called into the quarters of a ship's captain and given a lecture. He responds politely, then makes it clear that if he ever needs to, he won't hesitate before cutting the captain's head off. Haytham then takes a swig from the large tankard on the captain's desk before leaving.
- At one point in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, pirate protagonist Edward Kenway conquers a fort where one of his enemies, Governor Torres, is visiting. Kenway walks in on Torres having some tea. As Kenway makes it clear that he's going to rob Torres and could do far worse, he pours himself a cup of tea (though the scene ends before he drinks it).
- Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games has this trope ever constantly. The one that benefits from the buffs by jungle creeps are the ones that deliver the killing blow (or in the case of Heroes of the Storm, the one who stays at the mercenary area after subduing them the longest), therefore junglers usually had to be aware of enemies trying to invade their jungle and stealing their lunch. Especially common in early game where the jungler tried to get a head start to get a lot of experience when they're severely underleveled, they have to exhaust their resources in a significant number, and all it takes is for one enemy to act in the right time and all of their hard work rendered futile... and the enemy with advantage can go ahead and kill them too while they're at it. The stake is bigger when fighting Optional Boss, because an enemy team can use this as an advantage to wipe out your team and then kill the Optional Boss for their own benefit, putting yours in a disadvantage (or simply snatch the massive benefits from a much more hard-earned team effort of your team for themselves). Dota 2's famous e-sport scene, "Six Million Dollar Echo Slam", is an example of this trope at work. This tactic often has nicknames depending on the game, such as "creepjacking/Roshjacking" in DOTA, or "buff/dragon/Baron/Herald theft" in LOL. Could overlap with Robbing the Dead, but technically speaking, killing the enemy is not necessary but rather landing the killing blow and/or snatching the relevant reward away.
- The reveal trailer for Bendy and the Ink Machine Chapter 3 includes a cartoon short called "Tombstone Picnic." In it, Bendy trips and loses his picnic basket. Boris takes it and starts eating nonchalantly. Bendy, after demanding his picnic basket back and getting ignored, sprays Boris with a shaken soda bottle.
- Another short called "Cookie Cookin'" shows Bendy making a Gingerbread Man, but as he pulls the tray out of the oven, he finds that it's empty because Boris already took Bendy's cookie and eats it.
- Chrono Trigger: During Crono's trial, the chancellor will invoke and exploit this to make him look like a villain if he happened to steal a guy's lunch at the Millennial Fair, calling the victim in as a Character Witness.
- Mid-Boss steals the lunch that Flonne and Jennifer made for a picnic in Episode 10 of the first Disgaea game. When they finally catch up to him, he's eaten it all.
- Grim Fandango: Invoked almost word for word by the Big Bad in one scene when berating a subordinate for his failure.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: A variant, player character Link can steal food from enemy camps. This can be played straight as well if an enemy is near their preferred food (such as killing a goat near a Bokoblin) when they can't see Link - the enemy will focus on the food and try to grab it before Link can - Link can abuse this to set up ambushes.
- During a party in Mass Effect 3: Citadel, Garrus and Zaeed decide to start "preparing" Shepard's apartment in case someone else tries to steal their life. One of their ideas is to rig the coffeemaker to dispense poison and/or explode (their opinions vary as to what would be most effective) in case anyone tries this trope. Shepard is skeptical about this whole plan, to say the least.
- In Persona 5, Goro Akechi attempts to do this to the Phantom Thieves, by taking some of their takoyaki. Unfortunately, they're eating "Russian takoyaki"; one of them is very, very spicy. And it's the one the antagonist takes, to his immediate regret.
- Due Frabellum eats Mii Koryuji's flan at one point in Project × Zone. Mii doesn't take kindly to that.
- Odin pulls this off in God of War Ragnarök with him drinking the mead that Thor brought for Kratos as a sign of hospitality: drinking both Kratos' mug and then his sons as a power move in order to assert dominance and show just how much of a Control Freak Odin is.
- Team Fortress 2: In "Meet the Scout," the RED Scout eats the BLU Heavy's Sandvich after beating him up with a bat. In-game, you can steal a Heavy's Sandvich by either picking up a dropped Sandvich on the ground like a Medkit or killing them while they are holding it and picking up an ammo pack. Since the Heavy is vulnerable while eating a Sandvich, an enemy catching them can easily kill the Heavy before he can finish his meal.
Scout (dominating a Heavy): "I... EAT... YOUR... SANDVICHES. I eat 'em up!"
- Several Simon's Cat cartoons revolve around the Cat and sometimes the Kitten stealing Simon's food. The Cat also falls victim to this when the Kitten steals his food.
- Half-Life: Zero Viscosity: A Metrocop barges into KKMMKMBK's "fluid test" with Gus, looking to execute the latter, and stops only as he finds out this consists of taste-testing different waters... so he stops to drink the one glass that was still untouched before he kills them, even taunting them about how it's the last thing the terminally-dehydrated Gus will see. Unfortunately for him, the last glass was cyanide (KKMMKMBK had no idea humans couldn't drink that) and he drops dead within seconds.
- In Dubious Company, the pirates get lost while breaking out of Kreedor's castle. They eventually meet Private Charles and get him to lead them. When they learn he is as lost as they are, Tiren steals his last sandwich in frustration.
- Subverted in Joe vs. Elan School. Joe's childhood bully Darren snatches away a beer that Joe had stolen from a neighborhood party, in order to mock him. Joe, who has been throughly changed and hardened by all the traumatic events he went through his time in the titular Boarding School of Horrors, calmly warns Darren that if his mouth as much as touches the beer, he is going to punch him in the face (so calmly, in fact, that Joe, in his narration, admits to being kind of disturbed and scared at how easy and casually threatening violence against another person came to him in that moment). Darren laughs it off and then goes to take a sip, but Joe makes good of his threat immediately decks him.
- One Living with Hipstergirl and Gamergirl strip has Sophia barge into her neighbor's house as they're eating lunch, takes a bite out of their food and gulps down their glasses, then leaves without having said a single word. The neighbor then wonders if maybe she knows they've been using her wifi ◊.
- Unsounded: Starfish, a Fat Bastard who has kidnapped and enslaved Jivi, steals a sandwich from Jivi after Matty sneaks it to him.
- Discussed in this episode of Cracked's "After Hours" series, particularly in reference to Quentin Tarantino movies.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Jake Suit", Jake, in control of Finn's body for a day, forces Finn to make his favorite food, meatloaf. Finn is ready to chow down, but Jake ends up eating every piece that Finn sticks in his mouth. Finn is taken aback by this, but doesn't let this slow him down.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Critters", Farmer Brown sends a talking goat into the police station to deliver an ultimatum to Commissioner Gordon, and it eats Harvey Bullock's donut on the way in. (Bullock is very angry at first, but then he finds out that the goat can talk and the rather serious nature of the threat, and forgets about it.)
- In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Hero For Hire", the Beagle Boys torment Doofus by eating his pancakes.
- In Megas XLR, Gorrath has Coop separated from his robot on his ship and bound in heavy shackles, and what does he do first? He holds a Philly cheese steak in front of his face and takes a big bite of it right in front of him. Even more hilariously, he's clearly disgusted by the taste, but swallows it anyway with a stilted "Mmm!" just to spite Coop. He is not amused.
- Phineas and Ferb: In "Sidetracked", Perry the Platypus meets Dr. Doofenshmirtz in the dining car of a train running along the US/Canadian border, and Doofenshmirtz announces he's got Perry trapped... by social convention, as the heroic Perry wouldn't want to cause a scene in a fancy restaurant. Perry's temporary partner Lyla Lolaberry solves this problem by sneaking bites of Doofenshmirtz's fries, getting him angry enough to make a scene and break the "trap".
- The Random! Cartoons short "6 Monsters" has a scene where Gaillard offers to help Cathy with her math, but only as an excuse to devour her lunch in front of her.
- In Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure, Cassandra crashes Eugene's birthday party and helps herself to a slice of cake before making her demands.
- Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Lemon of Troy": After people from Shelbyville steal a Springfield lemon tree, one of them gloats to Homer by biting into a raw lemon and desperately pretends he didn't regret his decision as his face curdles and his eyes water.
- In the first episode of TaleSpin, Don Karnage intimidates the customers at Louie's by drinking someone's drink.
- Teen Titans (2003):
- Subverted in one episode where Cyborg infiltrates the H.I.V.E. disguised as "Stone". In the cafeteria, both Gizmo and Mammoth try to intimidate him, Mammoth taking his hamburger and eating it to do so. It fails to intimidate him at all; he quickly assumes a stone-like form and crushes the table, eliciting nervous laughs from both of them.
- In "Final Exam", Jinx, Gizmo and Mammoth all broke into Titans Tower, Mammoth started eating up the food in the fridge though the Titans couldn't eat the food since it was completely covered in blue goo so Mammoth might have been doing the Titans a favor.
- The Wander over Yonder episode "The Hole" has Wander get his finger stuck in a black hole. At one point, he sees an apple in the distance and desperately tries to find a way to reach it without unplugging the black hole and therefore putting every planet in the vicinity at risk. Lord Hater eventually comes by and decides to torment Wander for the hell of it, one of his methods being that he eats the apple in front of Wander, admitting afterwards that he hates apples (apparently willing to eat them only if he can upset Wander by doing so).
- Robberies of pizza delivery drivers have been reported in a number of areas; usual tactics include deliveries to vacant houses where the driver gets robbed at gunpoint. While money is the main target, many drivers have also been robbed of their pizzas.
- The infamous crooked New York lawyer Roy Cohn had a habit of rarely ever ordering food when visiting fancy restaurants. In most cases, the only food he ate in these places were openly and unashamedly stolen off his tablemates plates. He would do this to friend and foe alike, and his personal connections both within the New York mob and to several powerful local politicians and businessmen meant this behavior went unchallenged.
- Naturalists studying social interaction among animals always watch for this trope, as being able to appropriate another individual's food without repercussion is one of the strongest indicators of an animal's dominant status. This is known as kleptoparasitism, and occurs both between individuals of different species and between members of the same species.
- The extinct short-faced bear is thought to have obtained most of its food this way. It was more carnivorous than modern brown and black bears but lacked the speed to catch agile prey like deer and horses and lacked the strength to catch large prey like mammoths and bison, so it probably used its size to chase smaller carnivores like wolves and lions away from their kills. Though newer evidence suggests that it actually wasn't as carnivorous as previously thought, but it could still have been an accomplished kleptoparasite.
- In another famous example, spotted hyenas and African lions are well known for doing this to each other: both will chase the other from a kill whenever they've got enough friends on their side to do so. Both of them also frequently steal from other predators like leopards and African wild dogs.
- Cheetahs fall frequent victim to this trope, to the point where it's estimated that they lose an average 50% of their kills to other carnivores. Being the quintessential Fragile Speedsters, cheetahs are grossly unsuited to any kind of fight, and a confrontation with just about any other large African predator will force them to retreat.
- In this video, a honey badger steals a puff adder's lunch and eats it right in front of it, then eats the snake for good measure.
- Humans, long-established as the apex predator of Africa, can do this to lions too. The key is to just walk confidently towards them and they'll run away. But if you flinch or hesitate...
- Frigate birds get their name from a type of ship favored by pirates, as they regularly engage in this trope's sort of "piratical" behavior, stealing fish from other seabirds that are returning to their nesting grounds with their catch.