Thomas Aquinas, Scorched Almonds, and tinned spaghetti pizza: an ethical guide to stolen food

by | May 16, 2024 | Opinion

When the medieval catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa Theologica: “It is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another’s property, by taking it either openly or secretly: nor is this properly speaking theft or robbery” he probably didn’t have in mind a dozen boxes of Scorched Almonds. But then again, Aquinas had almost certainly never tried one of those chocolate-smothered roasted nuts so didn’t realise quite how moreish they could be. How many Scorched Almonds can be said to be enough Scorched Almonds? To paraphrase Tupac Shakur and this Florida man: only God can judge.

Foodstuffs released a press release on Wednesday in which they sobbed: “The total amount of retail crime recorded at Foodstuffs North Island’s 300+ New World, PAK’nSAVE and Four Square stores has more than doubled within two years, latest data from the 100% New Zealand owned and operated grocery co-operative shows.” (they manage to crowbar that plucky-kiwi-battler tag into all their many press releases). And although we do have sympathy for their entirely blameless on-the-ground staff who have to deal with aggressive and even violent customers, we can’t quite muster a tear for the small portion of the supermarket chain’s “million dollars of excess profit a day” that disappears through the sliding doors and into the pockets of the hungry, desperate, and perpetually broke. In fact, in the absence of fair market competition could one not interpret stealing from the duopoly as a form of natural justice; a perfectly moral and just redistribution of immorally acquired wealth?

According to Time Magazine the world’s most stolen food item is, of course, cheese. A massive 4% of the world’s cheese ends up stolen (a cow would argue 100% of the world’s cheese is stolen but that’s another parcel of curds entirely). Cheese is delicious and comes in tidy, discrete packages that fit nicely into a trouser pocket (we’re talking a wedge of Brie rather than a kilo of Tasty). In New Zealand, despite our relatively small geographical area, we are one of the world’s largest producers of dairy. Where I live there are cows everywhere. Is it any wonder a few of our citizens feel a certain amount of entitlement to the fruits of the soil? Is cheese not a national birthright? Should we not all be allocated a weekly stipend of Edam upon proof of ctitzenship? Is that so crazy?

What else should New Zealanders and Thomas Aquinas count as a need requiring succoring?

Tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce

When Bill English  went viral with his tinned spaghetti and pineapple pizza way back in 2017, the world went bananas. My New Yorker significant other looked physically wounded when I described the dish to her. It’s incredible Italy didn’t declare war. This is the stuff you build a nation around. Something that you and your compatriots take pride in but everyone else thinks is horrendous. Think Japen and whale meat, Iceland and “rotten shark”, the USA and twinkies. It’s us against them. It’s seige mentality. Give me tinned spaghetti or give me death.

Pineapple Lumps

They’re chewy, they’re crunchy, they’re soft, they’re hard. It’s that kind of versatility that make the old P-Lumps a part of this county’s social fabric. We do what we have to do.

Vogel’s Bread

A loaf of bread to feed your family in times of need. But only Vogel’s. And it must be toasted.


Mission accomplished.



About the Author

David Wrigley

David is a writer and musician from Kemureti/ Cambridge. He has been published in Noble Rot, Nourish Magazine, Turbine|Kapohau, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, and is currently working on his first novel. He has done his time in restaurants in Aotearoa and the UK. Oh, yes. He has done his time.

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