WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic
File:Orange-small 8381.png

In many stories set in a Crapsack World, a character is shown buying food in the black market for an exorbitant price. One of the items being bought is always something very sensuous, for example, either an orange or a sack of coffee. That character will either stand around and marvel at how wonderful the orange looks against the gray/sepia world, or press the coffee against his nose to absorb the aroma, or take a precious bite of chocolate and perform a milder version of Erotic Eating. Sometimes, a character might be shocked to find one of these foods in a rich person's house.

In-universe, this could be explained by Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap, or the authors are trying to evoke parallels to Real Life (see examples below). Also, because Dystopia tends to be set in northern climates, it makes sense for people in northern climates to find foods from tropical areas as rare and sensuous because of the implied expense. However, an astute viewer might note that the foods selected by the authors are generally those that can be dramatically used by the actor/director to reinforce the crapsackiness of the Crap Sack World. It's never something that is dull but nutritious, like peanut butter or spinach. If it's an orange, the color is used to make a stark contrast against the background; coffee/chocolate can be dramatically used by the actors.

Examples of Black Market Produce include:


  • In Tekken, the main character buys an orange for his mother.
  • In V for Vendetta, on Evey's first morning in the Shadow Gallery, she is given toast with her breakfast and is astonished to find real butter. V explains that he stole it from the Chancellor's supplies.


  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the heroine brings real tea and coffee to her hideout. She comments that there has been a surprising amount of coffee available lately, and deduces that Oceania (the superstate in which she lives) must have conquered Indonesia. She couldn't think where else the coffee might have come from, despite the fact that the heartland of Oceania includes Central America, Colombia and Brazil. Also, Winston meets a prole couple on a train who confide in him that they are hoping to get hold of some black-market butter while visiting relatives.
  • In the "_ In Death" series by J.D. Robb, set in the 2050-2060s, real meat and coffee are expensive luxuries that only the mega-rich can afford. In the first novel of the series reformed (mostly) bad boy billionaire Roarke woos Lt. Eve Dallas by giving her a present of genuine coffee beans from the Brazilian plantation he maintains at great expense for his own personal supply. It's so immeasurably superior to the vile sludge that usually passes for coffee that Dallas's coffee becomes the envy of the entire Homicide division.
  • In The Hunger Games, the heroine makes her living poaching game and selling it on the black market. In addition, most food that isn't made from grain rations is expensive and rather rare in the Districts. The decadent Capital, on the other hand, has tons of food of all kinds.
  • In City of Ember, the people of the city live mainly on canned food stored for decades in huge cellars. By the time the story takes place, the supply is getting low and only the most basic kinds of foods are left. Canned fruit is thought of as an exotic luxury enjoyed by previous generations. The few items (such as pineapple and applesauce) that do show up aren't being sold on the black market, but they are being stolen, hoarded, and jealously guarded.
    • Lina has several "beautiful things" stuck up on her bedroom wall. One of them is the label from a can of peaches.
  • In Gabrielle Zevin's book All These Things I've Done, chocolate and other caffeine products are illegal. The main character is a Mafia Princess whose family makes black market chocolate
  • In the Thursday Next books, characters from the BookWorld want things from the Outland (the real world), and those things include foodstuffs. In response to requests and along with other non-food items, Thursday brings back a jar of Marmite, Moggilicious cat food (for The Cat Formerly Known as Cheshire), and Mintolas (for Marianne Dashwood, who describes them as, "A bit like like Munchies but minty").
  • Nicky's house in Robert Westall's, The Machine Gunners is being used a billet by a group of naval ratings; there's fresh bread and huge tins of real butter lying around open in the kitchen. Turns out these and a steady supply of booze are being smuggled off navy destroyers by several of the sailors.

Live Action TV

  • In Terra Nova, the father brings an orange to the family in the opening scenes.
  • In the television production of Ngaio Marsh's Final Curtain, Alleyn appears on Troy's doorstep after escorting a fugitive from South Africa bearing a pineapple, and Troy makes a quip about painting a still life of it. The scene cuts to the same fruit on her dining table, prepared and being eaten by the pair of them.
  • In the Doctor Who story "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", an old woman reports the main characters to the Daleks and is rewarded with food, including an orange. "I haven't tasted an orange in years..."
  • On MASH, the occasional real food was quite a treat. One time a farmer gave the unit a bunch of real eggs, not the reconstituted stuff they usually get. Another time Radar went through a Chain of Deals in order to supply Col. Potter with fresh tomato juice after some accidentally got shipped to them and Potter liked it - but then after all that trouble, it turns out Potter is mildly allergic. He'd been without it for so long he forgot.
  • From the pilot episode of Firefly we get Kaylee enjoying a strawberry and the crew getting excited about fresh vegetables and herbs.
    • Explained in the RPG. Fresh produce doesn't keep as long aboard ship as packaged protein, and some voyages last weeks.
    • At one point, the crew is hired to smuggle cattle.
  • In the Foyle's War episode "Bleak Midwinter", set in rationing-bound World War II England, Foyle busts an operation that's been smuggling restricted food, leading to a subplot for the rest of the episode about who's going to end up with the food once it's done being held as evidence.
  • Battlestar Galactica has the black market ship Prometheus which, in addition to smokes, drugs, prostitutes and jewelery, supplies the non-military members of the Fleet with the last remaining fresh fruit. It both serves to underscore that many civilians lack what the protagonists have been taking for granted and acts as a plot point to hint Ellen Tigh's connections when she shows up with a bowl full of grapes.
  • The TV series Bootleg was centred around a pair of kids setting up a black market chocolate operation after chocolate is banned by the government.

Tabletop Games


  • Cabaret has a musical number that is based on a gift of a pineapple. See Real Life below.

Web Comics:

Western Animation

Real Life

  • In the United Kingdom, oranges were a particular Yuletide treat, associated with Saint Nicholas. They recur (along with chocolate) in works set in the austerity of post-WWII Britain, when wartime food rationing continued.
  • In Romania before the revolution, oranges were very rare.
  • In East Germany, oranges and especially bananas were very rare.
  • In Poland Under the communist regime, most tropical fruits, butter and even toilet paper was extremely rare.
  • Generally things like tropical fruits and occasionally meat were very rare in the whole Soviet bloc.
  • If you're a recent immigrant to another country, many foodstuffs that you used to pick up every week or so from the local supermarket can now only be found retailing for ruinous prices in specialist food shops owned by fellow expatriates, if they can be found at all.
    • Somewhat subverted if you live in a immigrant-rich community such as Toronto. It's not uncommon to find pickled Chinese food shelved right next to Indian delicacies across from a icebox full of imported (and cheap) European foods.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.