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Filching Food for Fun

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"I never run around in the bushes in a ski mask when I'm breaking in some place. Somebody catches you, what are you gonna say? You wanna look like a legitimate visitor until the very last minute. If you can't look legit, confused works almost as well. Maybe you get a soda from the fridge or a yogurt. If you're caught, you just act confused and apologize like crazy for taking the yogurt, nothing could be more innocent."
Michael Westen, "Pilot", Burn Notice
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Taking someone else's food in secret is petty and it's nothing nice, but it's not a serious crime either. This trope is about casually stealing food for no particular reason, just because the character considers it fun, entertaining, a good prank or perhaps a proper revenge. Some do it to relieve boredom. And as a bonus they can get some delicious food.

It's not quite as rude or intimidating as stealing food from someone's plate right in front of their very eyes, but it's still pretty rude and generally frowned upon. Daring characters will however do it because of the thrill and excitement. If they're caught, the punishment isn't very severe. If the character steals from their friends, siblings or roommates, they're likely to be told off or they might argue about whose food it really was and why they did it, but that's about it. It can lead to Lost Food Grievance.

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Another reason to steal food from others is Evil Is Petty. It's not a major act of villainy, but extremely annoying.

Scrumping is an Internal Subtrope for children, teens or young adults who steal fruit from trees in their neighbours' orchards and gardens, traditionally apples or pears. It's considered a childish prank at worst, and it has an air of old-fashioned wholesomeness. The reason is that children never take a lot and they usually eat the fruit right away. So such fresh food and exercise benefit their health.

Sister Trope to Enemy Eats Your Lunch which is about eating someone else's food right in front of them to assert dominance or intimidate opponents. Compare to Roguish Poacher. Contrast to Justified Criminal who steals out of necessity to feed themselves or their family. A character who does this a lot may have Sticky Fingers. Literally

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In episode 5, season 1 of Love Live!, Nico swipes Honoka's and Umi's fries when they aren't looking out of sheer pettiness, but she's caught when trying to steal Honoka's hamburger. When Honoka demands her fries back, Nico defiantly opens her mouth, causing the former to clarify by having her buy new fries.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield has this as a stock behavior for Garfield, as well as one of its most frequently recurring gags. One strip has Jon try and turn the tables on the cat by stealing his food. Garfield, who is already tucking into Jon's dinner that night, is unimpressed.

    Comic Books 
  • Chuck Billy from Brazilian comic series MonicasGang is constantly seen scrumping from his neighbor Mr. Lau's guava tree, resulting in him angrily shooting at him with a rifle loaded with salt.

    Films — Animation 
  • Zootopia: Right before delivering his "Reason You Suck" Speech to Judy, Nick casually nabs a handful of blueberries from a fruit vendor he passes on the street. He immediately tosses one in his mouth to confuse an already annoyed Judy and puts the rest in his shirt pocket.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Bold Caballero, Zorro robs the wagon bringing supplies to the inn and steals the special supper ordered for the new governor. Then, as Don Diego, he meets the governor at the inn and, when the governor discovers there is no supper, Diego offers to share his own supper that he brought with him (which is actually the stolen supper). The governor declines, but his daughter Isabella accepts Diego's invitation.
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster: At the end of the film, Scratch extracts a final act of petty vengeance by stealing Daniel Webster's peach pie and eating it.
  • Judas Kiss: After knocking out the security guard, Ruben steals his bag of chips and eats them while the kidnapping is going down. He also steals the guard's porno tapes, which shows his pettiness.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring: Sam and Frodo run into Merry and Pippin while taking a shortcut across Farmer Maggot's land. They're shortly chased off a steep hill by Maggot because Merry and Pippin have been stealing from his crop.

    Literature 
  • In Confessions, Augustine recounts that the first deliberate sin he committed as a child was getting together with some friends to steal pears from a neighbor's tree, just because they could. They didn't even end up eating the fruit.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The teenage thief Lift is introduced breaking into a palace to eat the ruler's lunch; the Edgedancer novella features her visiting a new city just to steal the festival pancakes. Beyond the self-imposed challenge, she's a Big Eater because she's a Knight Radiant with the unique ability to convert nutrition into Investiture, so using her powers makes her extremely hungry.
  • Persuasion: Implied when a lawyer recalls an event when a former clergyman consulted with him about some stolen apples from his orchard. Mr Wentworth decided not to take any legal action so it's likely it was a young kid who made a stupid mistake.
    [I] knew the gentleman so well by sight; seen him a hundred times; came to consult me once, I remember, about a trespass of one of his neighbours; farmer's man breaking into his orchard; wall torn down; apples stolen; caught in the fact; and afterwards, contrary to my judgement, submitted to an amicable compromise.
  • Good Omens ends with Adam Young scrumping an apple from a neighbour's tree, because "there never was an apple, in Adam's opinion, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it".

    Live-Action TV 
  • In House, Doctor Jerk House steals his friend Wilson's food repeatedly and sometimes eats it right in front of him to tick him off, but at times he steals his food from a fridge (either at home as they're occasionally roommates or at the hospital where they both work), only for Wilson to find empty boxes. It's Played for Laughs as they are friends who bicker all the time. House also secretly eats other doctors' food in the morgue. He just loves messing with people.
    Cuddy: You keep your lunch in the morgue?
    House: If I put it in the doctor's lounge, everybody else eats it.
    Cuddy: [points to a label on one of the containers] That's because it's everybody else's food.
  • Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23: Chloe, the titular B(itch), casually steals food from other people. For example, she takes her roommate June's lunch from their fridge. She does it for the heck of it and mostly because there's not much others can do about it.
  • Federal flack Twitchell on Tremors: The Series was always taking food and soft drinks from Jodie's store without paying for them, in one of many ways he threw his weight around.
  • A variation shows up at the beginning of the Babylon 5 episode "Babylon Squared". Ivanova, awakened early and short on sleep, dozes off at breakfast as Sinclair quotes a meditation chant. Sinclair and Garibaldi then hide everybody's food and wake her up, causing her to think that she's a half-hour behind schedule.
  • Friends:
    • "The One with Monica's Thunder": Phoebe secretly takes Joey's partially eaten candy bar. When he asks about it, she claims he has eaten it all. She then takes it out and eagerly eats it. Food is a Serious Business for Joey so he's not happy when he sniffs her later and finds out she ate it.
    • "The One with Ross's Sandwich": Ross has his delicious turkey sandwich stolen at work despite it having a note with his name. He finds out that it was his boss who took it for no particular reason. The fact that his boss couldn't finish it and threw most of it into trash sends Ross over the edge.
      Ross: You-you-you-you threw... my sandwich away! MY SANDWICH? MY SANDWICH?!?
  • In Burn Notice's pilot episode, Michael breaks into his client's employer's mansion to look at his finances, suspecting the wealthy landlord committed the crime of the week as an insurance scam. While there, he swipes a yogurt from the fridge (partly) for use as a prop to confuse anybody who might walk in on him.

    Video Games 
  • Played for Drama in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers; Team Skull decided to amuse themselves by stealing and eating all of Wigglytuff's perfect apples. The sudden lack of said apples forced the protagonists to go and look for more, which only increased Team Skull's petty enjoyment.

    Web Animation 
  • In Helluva Boss, Loona has a habit of stealing Moxxie's lunch, judging from the note on the break room fridge visible as she's taking his avocado salad.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Lemon of Troy": Boys from Springfield and Shelbyville argue over a lemon tree and its lemons. Both groups think the tree belongs to their town. One day Bart and co. find the tree is entirely without the fruit, and later the whole tree gets stolen.
    • "The Marge Ian Chronicles": Flanders builds a chicken coop to get fresh eggs. After stealing some of them, Homer decides he wants fresh eggs himself and builds his own coop. However, he and Bart soon realize part of the superior taste is the thrill of stealing, leading Homer to blow the whole thing off.
  • Yogi Bear: Yogi Bear, a Funny Animal living in Jellystone National Park, has stealing picnic baskets as his calling card. He's by no means a malicious character, and there's no evidence he doesn't have sufficient food otherwise available (though he finds the usual bear diet of nuts and berries unappetizing), so he seems to be doing it mostly for fun.
  • The 1937 Merrie Melodies short "Pigs is Pigs" had Piggy Hamhock (a predecessor to Porky Pig) compulsively stealing and eating all manner of food, much to his mother's chagrin. He then proceeds to have a lengthy Acid Reflux Nightmare in which a mad scientist uses an elaborate machine to force-feed Piggy until he's grotesquely bloated. When Piggy is finally allowed to leave, he decides to have one last chicken leg for the road... and promptly explodes. Then he wakes up, relieved to find out it was All Just a Dream.
  • The Dragon Prince: Crown prince Ezran steals jelly tarts from the baker for fun.
  • Donald Duck's 1950 short "Lion Around" involves Donald's nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie disguising themselves as a mountain lion in order to scare Donald and steal a pie off his windowsill. Things get complicated when a real mountain lion shows up.
  • In her first spotlight episode, Katnappe from Xiaolin Showdown steals a little boy's ice-cream at a fair and eats a bit, then throws it on the ground. This makes the little boy cry.
  • In The Loud House episode, "a Fridge too Far," Luna mentions that she likes stealing her siblings' food simply for the heck of it.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: In the episode "Life of Crime", the title character gives himself and Patrick a candy bar. Patrick foolishly thinks Spongebob stole his despite him already eating it which Spongebob asserts to no avail. He then decides to taunt Patrick's stubbornness by gesturing to eat the candy bar and eventually does.

    Real Life 
  • Saint Augustine famously note  stole pears as a kid, and felt terrible about the fact after he reformed and became Christian. Years later.

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