Easy enough, right? Actually, it is pretty easy. There's a ton of food all over the place! I'm much more likely to die from bees, or spiders, or tentacles than I am from starving. Of course, I tend to be fighting those things in order to get at more food...
Anyway, I've been playing a fair bit with Ike recently and we figured out a couple of recipes in the crock pot device which lets you combine 4 pieces of food into a meal. We found out that meatballs seemed to give lots of food but no health while honey nuggets gave lots of health but not nearly as much food. We wanted to know more details, but it turns out my interface with a controller doesn't seem to show any numbers at all. We wanted to explore the game without just reading all the stuff about it, but not having a real way to get numbers for things was frustrating. So we decided to actually search for the crock pot recipes and see what was actually going on.
It turns out it's a pretty complicated system. There's a ton of recipes, but the real key is that many foods are interchangeable in the recipes. For the most part all of the meats are the same. All of the vegetables are the same. All of the fruits are the same. Some specific recipes care about specific items (turkey dinner needs turkey drumsticks for example) but otherwise a drumstick is the same as a frog leg is the same as a morsel of rabbit meat. Cooking food before sticking it in a crockpot also doesn't do anything in the vast majority of recipes.
The only real twist is that each category of food has some foods that are just bigger than others. Meat, monster meat, and the cooked/jerkied versions of those are twice as good as all the other meats. Berries and cooked berries are only half of a fruit. All of the mushroom varieties are only half of a vegetable.
Because there's so much interchangeability between the different categories it turns out there's a lot of overlap in terms of what you can make with 4 given ingredients. They put in a priority on every recipe and the highest priority recipe gets made if multiple legal recipes are put in the pot. If there's a tie then each recipe has an even chance of being made. This actually means there are ways to turn monster meat into real food!
And in a weird turn of events, twigs are a legal item to be put in a crock pot. I tried to cook with poop, but I didn't try to cook with twigs. Oops!
So there's this huge list of recipes... What recipes are the 'best' ones? A given world layout will have different levels of access to the kinds of food, but is it worth killing frogs in order to make frog leg sandwiches? Are honey nuggets as awesome as it felt like they were? I decided to go through everything and crunch some numbers, because that's just the sort of person I am. Unfortunately this meant reading a little more about some other aspects of the game (base stats and the like), but I still have no clue what the actual goal of the game is, so I don't feel like I've actually spoiled anything relevant yet!
Ike tends to play Willow, and I tend to play Wilson, so I didn't have to do too much poking around. Both have 150 max health, 150 max hunger, and lose 75 hunger per day. Wilson has 200 max sanity, Willow has only 120, but she can gain sanity back by standing in fires. (And is immune to fire damage!) So if one is planning on going on a multi-day adventure to explore the map one should bring 75 hunger worth of food per day.
I built a spreadsheet and tried to guess the cheapest way to make each cooked food. Then I compared the gain of the ingredients against the gain of the result and I was actually pretty surprised. A lot of the recipes didn't seem to actually help all that much. Roasted berries are actually really good, it turns out, so using them as the main ingredient in most things isn't helping all that much. The real gains seemed to be found in terms of sanity. Eating basic ingredients doesn't give any sanity for the most part, while some of the recipes can give some decent sanity.
Roasted berries are worth 1 health and 12.5 food. That's the same value of most things that I thought were better than berries, like cooked fish, cooked frog legs, fried drumsticks, raw carrots, and cooked morsels. Cooked carrots are actually better than all of those at 3 health and 12.5 food.
Honey nuggets, which I thought were really good for health, give 20 health, 37.5 food, and 5 sanity. The ingredients are worth 6 health and 46.875 food. So you actually lose almost 10 food by cooking them up, but they give an extra 14 health and 5 sanity. I'd say that's pretty worth it if you need healing.
Froggle bunchwiches give the same amount! But you can make them with mushrooms and twigs instead of honey and berries so they're actually really good.
Trailmix gives 30 health and 5 sanity, but only 12.5 food. You lose a lot of food value making the trail mix, but you get even more health than the honey nuggets.
If you're looking for a big food boost you're looking at wanting to make meaty stew or meatballs. Meatballs actually are only worth 25% more food than the base ingredients, so they're not fantastic. The meaty stew is a full stomach in one item and also gives 12 health and 5 sanity. The real cool thing about the meaty stew is you can use one monster meat in there with no risk of monster lasagna. So 2 morsels, a meat, and a monster meat will make a meaty stew. Getting the normal meat is rough, and it may be better to use it in a honey ham recipe, but it is a good way to use monster meat to good effect.
The best use of monster meat is probably bacon and eggs. You can use a full 2 monster meat with a tallbird egg and a twig for that recipe which gives 20 health, 75 food, and 5 sanity. Even with regular eggs (which I've never seen) you can use one monster meat with a morsel and 2 eggs for this recipe.
Some of the fancy fruits and veggies have individual recipes which are pretty cool.
Turkey dinner is awesome. More food than meatballs, the same health as honey nuggets.
Fishsticks actually restore 40 health, 37.5 food, and 5 sanity. Which is way better than trailmix! I found a way to mine for fish the last time I played with Ike, and it now seems like a really good idea.
At any rate, what I learned is cooked carrots are better than I thought. Cooked berries are as good as most of the meats, so throwing them in as filler is not as good as I thought. The recipes are still pretty good if you need the extra health or sanity from them, or if you're using them to convert garbage items like monster meat or red mushrooms into real food. Trail mix is bad for food, but really good for health. Stuff you get by fighting low level monsters (bees, frog...) makes the same sort of stuff which is good but not fantastic. Meatballs are not as good as I thought but still worth making I think. Runs to collect up berries and carrots are looking like a really good idea.