Sneaking Food Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Sneaking Food

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A furtive hand steals away some food.

Sneaking food could be defined as the act of ingesting edibles without the knowledge or consent of parties closely concerned. In plain English, it means secretly eating stuff you probably shouldn't be or when you shouldn't be. Almost everyone indulges in it at some point, probably because food is universally appealing and so often unreasonably restricted to specific times, events or people.

Why Sneak?

There are many reasons people sneak food. They might be restricted to a diet they don't appreciate by another person – or merely heavily encouraged by another person to the point where it's embarrassing to eat in front of them. They may have been banned from delicacies being saved for a special occasion, like Thanksgiving Dinner or a birthday party. They may be suffering from a bingeing disorder they don't want anyone to know about. They may have been told not to spoil their appetite for dinner or that they ought not to eat such unhealthy stuff. Possibly, they are preparing food for someone else. Alternatively, they may just want to eat the last cookie in the jar or the last slice on the plate and they don't want to be caught in the act.


In any of these situations, the sneak-eater's goal is to obtain the food and consume it without being seen, and preferably, without their 'crime' ever being noticed by the party we shall henceforth refer to as the 'authority'. There are some basic techniques inherent to a successful raid:

  • Be Alone: While it is possible to sneak food in front of other people, that sort of sneaking is high risk and usually depends on split-second timing. When you are alone in the room containing the food – hereafter referred to as the kitchen unless differentiation is necessary – it is a simple matter to obtain the edibles unnoticed. (This presumes that the kitchen contains no surveillance devices. If you suspect your kitchen does, consider blowing a fuse first or divorcing/moving out. Some things should not be tolerated.) If your prize is well wrapped or stored in some entirely too-clever container, you'll want to ensure that you will remain alone in the kitchen for the span of time necessary to undo and redo all ties, snaps, rubber bands or fiddly clasps.

  • Be Quick: Even when alone in the kitchen, the possibility of interruption should not be overlooked. Even if the authority doesn't suddenly recall leaving an important scrap of paper next to the fridge, the doorbell or telephone may ring. The obvious solution is to get in, get the goods and get out in as short an amount of time as possible. This may require some practice or preparation beforehand. If the food is in a peculiar wrapping, it pays to practice opening and closing something similar beforehand. If the food is in a readily reachable location throughout the day, a few casual tweaks, twists or tugs while passing can cut the unwrapping time by as much as half when you finally do carry out your raid.

  • Be Quiet: A large part of sneaking is remaining uncaught. Telltale crinkles, crunches and splashes may alert the authority to your actions, thus blowing your cover and bringing unpleasant repercussions down upon your head. Don't try to eat foods wrapped in cellophane or noisy paper or open drinks that explode when the authority is within earshot. Oh, and turn off your cell phone before you try any sneaking.

  • Be Subtle: If the authority can deduce your actions from circumstantial evidence left at the scene of the crime, your sneaking has been in vain. If the goal-food is prone to crumbling, consider extracting and gulping down the edible over the trash can or sink, so you can easily wash away the crumbs afterward. If the prize comes in a single-serving bag or packaging, do not casually dump the wrapper in the trash can. If you cannot carry it out and dispose of it elsewhere, at least bury it under some disgustingly sticky kitchen scraps where you can be confident nobody will find it. Alternatively, puff the package up and replace it so that the authority will not immediately notice anything amiss. When raiding a cake with a slice or two cut out already, never cut yourself another slice. An attentive authority will always notice the extra piece cut out. Instead, shave a half-centimetre off all the cut edges, imperceptibly enlarging the already-present hole. Also, help yourself to the crumbs and small pieces lying in the bottom of the pan. Grabbing one of five or fewer items is sure to be noticed. It is also rarely advisable to take the last of any item, unless the first in line for accusation is somebody else.


While the proper tactics can be applied in almost any food-sneaking venture, different circumstances call for different overarching strategy.

  • The Picnic Method: When the authority will absent itself for long enough and you don't anticipate any interruptions, there's nothing to stop you from brazenly sneaking the food down your gullet in the same location you find it. When picnicking, however, never relax your guard. See 'Be Quick' above.

  • The Off-hand Gulp: If you personally are handling the food you'd like to sneak (for example, by helping prepare it), the simplest method is to arrange the workspace so that the authority has his or her back to you1 and occasionally reroute the food to your mouth while working. Generously offering to take care of all the food preparations yourself and then running a blender to cover any telltale crunching noises is the ideal environment for off-hand gulping.

  • The Grab-and-Run: If the authority will leave the target unguarded for enough time for you to put your hands on the food but not necessarily to consume it, you may want to grab and run. In this method, you acquire the prize and make off to a hidden spot where you can gobble it down undetected. This works best in kitchens with two exits, so there is no danger of meeting the authority on the way out.

  • The Helpful Vulture: Beautifully simple and straightforward, this method requires that you offer to clear the table and whisk away the dish with the chosen food. As soon as you duck around the doorway, you guzzle it down, lick the spoon, scrape the bowl or suck the crumbs. This could backfire if your altruistic offer raises community spirit in others, who pitch in to clear the table with you.

    A variation of this method requires knocking the goal food onto the floor and apologetically carrying it off to the dustbin, polishing it off along the way.

  • The Midnight Raid: Tested and proven by henpecked husbands the world over, the midnight raid consists of sneaking to the kitchen under the cover of night and helping yourself while the authority snoozes in blissful ignorance. Note: this strategy only works if the kitchen is your own property. Sneaking into someone else's kitchen or facility is considered burglary, and can get you arrested.

It is always important to survey the scene before closing in on your quarry; hasty grabbing and gulping can result in burnt fingers and palates or the awkward situation of chewing someone's prized wax fruit.

Sneaking Food in Fluid Crowds

Fluid crowds occur predominantly in social situations, such as parties, weddings, school and church affairs, etc. These situations are always littered with delicious looking foods, making sneaking inevitable. Sometimes it is necessary to hide your eating from the entire crowd, particularly if it contains concerned or gossipy aunts. Other times the crowd can shield you from the authority, allowing you greater freedom in your ingestions. There are a few general tactics you can apply to make it less likely that you'll be found out:

  • Grab casually. To get your hands on the food, casually drift over to it while chatting with someone, or offer to fetch or pass the food to someone else. While in the food's vicinity, dangle your hand over the plate and oh-so-naturally grasp and hide it away somewhere.

  • Grab small foods or chunks of foods. It is one of those odd facts of life that you are more likely to be caught carrying a slice of pizza than a peanut-butter cup. A half of a slice of pizza or a half-slice folded over is half as conspicuous. If you can tuck the food up your sleeve or into your jacket pocket, all the better.

  • Get yourself into a corner or sheltered spot and turn your back on the crowd. Alternatively, hide yourself in a group of people who either don't know you shouldn't be eating or who don't care. The hand-to-mouth motion is pretty distinct, so try to hide it. The motion could, of course, be disguised as scratching your cheek or rubbing your nose, but unless the motion is appropriate to your condition or conversation (that is: you have a cold), this isn't as easy to pull off as it seems.

  • Take small bites. The thing about crowds is that they're full of people who may, at any moment, decide to talk to you. Trying to talk through a mouth full of crumbs is a dead giveaway, and also rude. Packing the food into your cheek, squirrel style, and trying to talk around it really doesn't fool anyone, so please don't. Heavy chewing motions will also give you away. Take bites that you can masticate in barely perceptible motions, and swallow immediately, should the need arise.

  • Try a variation of the Grab-and-Run method. Fill your sleeves or pockets with the goods and then go out for a smoke or a breath of fresh air. Once out, you can turn a corner, duck into a doorway or otherwise find a sheltered spot to enjoy your booty. It is important to ensure that the authority does not join you for a smoke or breath of air. If the authority looks inclined to do so, consider the bathroom as a destination instead.

Sneaking Food in Static Crowds

Static crowds occur at lectures, cinemas, graduation ceremonies, classes and concerts. Static crowds have the advantage that the crowd's attention is usually focused on the movie, concert, graduation ceremony, lecturer or teacher2 and they ostensibly are not looking at you at all. Unfortunately, they also tend to have ushers and other depraved persons paid to ensure that you do not crunch in the cinema/lecture hall/theatre. Thus, static crowds present a unique difficulty: how to sneak the food into the crowd, as well as how to consume it once there.

In terms of sneaking in static crowds, not all foods are made equally. Things that crunch should be avoided, unless you intend to suck them until they're soft. This is dangerous if you risk being asked to participate in any way. Small, non-sticky items are the best; they can be carried in sans the wrapper and consumed piece by piece. Things that melt or stick are risky, and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis according to the air conditioner situation.

Getting It In

Places that have nondescript rows of chairs facing a platform also have signs outside announcing insidious things like 'No food or beverages allowed inside', or even worse, 'No outside food or beverages allowed inside'. The latter means they want you inside and hungry so they can overcharge you on the basic necessities of life. In such cases, civil disobedience is all but mandatory.

Unless there are thorough security guards with flashlights standing next to a table at the door, you can probably sneak your chocolate bar past by stuffing it in the bottom of your purse or briefcase, preferably under untouchable items, like used tissues. If there are guards, a never-fail technique is to simply fold your coat or jacket over the food and tuck the entire bundle under your arm. If it's a warm day you're in trouble, unless your item is small enough or your clothes are baggy enough or your shape is uneven enough that you can tuck the food into your waistband or under your shirt. Blazer pockets, for some reason, are rarely suspect, and you can sneak an opened or deflated bag of crisps in that way if you're careful.

Once in, make your way to your seat and arrange yourself and your things so that the food is within easy reach of your hand but still hidden. If you can sling your backpack or jacket over the back of the desk or chair in front of you, the top pocket or hood of each respectively makes an excellent repository.

Getting It Down

Getting food to mouth requires manoeuvring hand to food and then to mouth with a plausible excuse for doing so. This is actually quite simple. In terms of reaching the food, students can suddenly need new pens, white-out, paper or some such, while attendees can drop their programme or require their reading glasses or a tissue. As for getting the hand to mouth – sitting chin in hand, yawning, coughing and stroking the beard are time-honoured behaviours for captive audiences.

Drinking in static crowds is nearly impossible without forethought and planning. Consider running a long, flexible tube from a flask in your blazer or jacket pocket through the sleeve so you can drink while propping your chin on your hand.

1The opposite – your back to the authority – is also good, but not as good, because the authority can keep a close eye on you without your knowledge.2Well, maybe not the last three.

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