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Okay, I know I'm posting a really implausible question, please be understanding....

Many years ago, a powerful mage went mad (occupational hazard; one does encounter eldritch horrors and reality-altering magic when one is a powerful mage responsible for keeping the world safe), harnessed the powers of the eldritch horrors he slain, and corrupted the world's mana, permanently altering our food. Each and every single food you can think of-Black Forest cake, sour gummi worms, hardboiled eggs, carrots-has gained adorable eyes, simple mouths, and primitive limbs (for examples of creatures with these traits, look at Kirby or Shopkins, the inspiration for this question).

Furthermore, each of these food items has gained both unique personalities and 'cultural' traits, along with the ability to speak (which comes with rudimentary-think caveman-intelligence). Food heals or reproduces by expending energy, which comes from the corrupted mana of the planet itself. For example, two hamburgers, side by side, release a bolt of energy that collides between them and poof! A baby-size hamburger appears. The two "parents" then have halved energy and must wait a certain amount of time before they can have another "child."

Furthermore, food items can merge. For example, flour, eggs, sugar, butter, and milk fuse into a cake (and without baking soda, since I just can't count that as actual food...). This cake will have the combined intelligence and traits of the ingredients that came together to make it, making it a superfood (the food equivalent of superhuman). Each food has instinctive awareness of merging and reproduction from the get-go, but they can't do either until they mature. This takes the same amount of time as recharging for a "parent."

Additionally, food does not need to eat and heals damage (or loss of mass, like when a cake is cut into slices) over time. One example would be that candy tends to dissolve in water; so if living candy is exposed to water, and isn't completely dissolved, it can gradually restore mass. Since energy is going into regeneration, the candy will be weaker and slower during this time. This principle makes any cold food (like ice cream) weak but generally unmelting when exposed to heat (say, room temperature, or a hot car, NOT a blowtorch).

Finally, food can grow (or heal) by absorbing other members of their kind or their ingredients; carrots can grow by absorbing carrots, while cakes have the alternate option of absorbing flour, eggs, butter, sugar, or milk to grow. Growing causes a proportional increase in intelligence.

As for when animal/plant matter becomes food for the purposes of this question: as soon as fruit is fully formed, it becomes food and comes off. Once vegetables (like a carrot or head of lettuce) are fully formed, they become food. Animal carcasses and so forth are not meat until they are prepared; for birds, this means being plucked, beheaded, and cooked, for snails and insects, this means being cooked, and for fish, they have to be either cooked, made into sushi, or cooked and canned (as for sardines).

For those interested (like Nzall), bulk food LIFE is simple. Take a scoop from a bag of flour, and that scoop is alive as well, but less powerful and intelligent than the entire bag. The bag then has a slight dip in power and intelligence.

My question is simple but complex: How Will This Impact Mankind's Interaction With Food?

As always I appreciate your input, and your feedback. If this question is too opinion-based, or needs additional information, I would greatly appreciate advice on fixing it.

EDIT: Thanks everyone, your answers were all very helpful and I'll be using pieces of each and every one.

EDIT 2: Clarification

  1. Yes, the food feels pain-emotional pain, a sense of loss, whenever they lose part of themself. Exposing food to it's weakness-like heat for ice cream or water for bread-causes it physical and emotional anguish.

  2. Where is the energy over time coming from? Eldritch monstrosities, things like Chthulhu, have an Aura of Discord. They generate chaotic (AKA magical) energy that the living food draws off of.

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    $\begingroup$ When does animal/plant matter become "food" for the purposes of this magical effect? Is a head of lettuce growing in my garden sapient food, or does someone have to pick it first? $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Jan 20 '21 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ So any piece of flesh removed from a farm animal is immediately much smarter than the animal itself? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 21 '21 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @notovny, Daron, I will edit that information in. The answer is a resounding YES! though. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jan 21 '21 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ Cavemen were smart enough to survive in environments that would kill most of us pretty quickly. So the food is now smarter than most of humanity ;) $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Jan 21 '21 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Kilisi, thank you for notifying me of this potentially devastating weak point in my story. I want the food to be able to understand and reason with humans; what intelligence level would be best? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jan 21 '21 at 2:00
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Food cannot be stored in the home.

So everything we eat is alive? Well guess what, that's already true. The cow you had for dinner was alive!

Okay I admit it's not quite the same. But now the world has changed so, not only does the cow in the meadow walk and talk, but also the steak on you plate was still walking and talking as you gobbled it down. The same for the milk and eggs that would be in your fridge and the fruit in the fruit bowl.

I say would because fridges and fruit bowls no longer exist. Food cannot be stored in the home any easier than storing a live cow.

All food must be treated as though it was livestock, in the age before meat preservation was invented. That means it cannot be stored and must be eaten immediately after it is slaughtered.

Meaning if you want some meat you go to the market square where someone has just slaughtered an animal, with a mind to immediately butchering and selling off the pieces for consumption that day.

That means most meals are now eaten outside the home in large facilities. I presume the crops and livestock behave same as normal. It is transported from the fields to special facilities and only at the last second is it rendered into food. Then it is prepared in industrial size pressure cookers, with reinforced walls to prevent the ingredients escaping. Then it is served and eaten immediately.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a very helpful answer, but as long as you have barriers the food can't pass (fences and walls for most, moats for flour and its like) it likely won't be all that difficult to contain it. Why can't fridges and fruit bowls exist with some design changes? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jan 21 '21 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ I am sure they can be modified in principle. The same way you could in principle keep live cows in your house with modifications. In this case modifications include a large field next to the house, which is very expensive. I imagine for sentient food the increase in cost and size of fridges and fruitbowls would be not quite enough, but still to prevent storing the 100s of food items I have in my kitchen. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 21 '21 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ So I could store a few items in something like a rabbit hutch without them breaking out or killing each other. But something to contain the dozens of jars and spices in the pantry would quickly fill up the whole house. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 21 '21 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ In any that case the central facilities still exist, only you can buy some products pre-slaughtered. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 21 '21 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Very insightful responses, thank you Daron! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jan 21 '21 at 15:44
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Breaking News!! PETA finally loses it and declares war on mankind, starves to death before doing anything.

Okay, so that may be pushing it... they'd probably starve before declaring war. I don't think the overall relationship between us and our food would change all that much just because food is cute now (have you seen a baby cow? cute as can be... also delicious apparently, can't really say as I've never had it to my knowledge). There would inevitably be those who now shy away from cooking for themselves and end up contributing to the sudden restaurant boom.

The most major impact this event will have is perhaps a vast increase in price due to the inadvertent creation of perpetual-motion/self-sustaining food. Buy it once and so long as you don't eat it all? Boom, food for life. So that pretty much ends global hunger.

Oh, and the vast majority of farmers/ranchers/etc... going out of business because nobody needs extra food now. Though, with food now able to reproduce, maybe they'll all have new jobs as food wranglers. Imagine trying to corral a herd of tacos.

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    $\begingroup$ Upvote for the "corral a herd of tacos" line!!!!!!!!!! $\endgroup$
    – fartgeek
    Jan 21 '21 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ Jokes aside, it is an interesting question - I like a good steak as much as anyone else, but I bet I'm not the only meat lover who would be squeamish about ripping a calf apart with my bare teeth. And I'm not sure restaurants help, if even prepared food is going to plead with you for its life from your plate. $\endgroup$ Jan 21 '21 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MaciejStachowski Very true, though I agree with Daron, there has to be some sort of time lag between it being a cow and a steak. That window would have to be what everyone now aims for. Upside, much fresher meals, downside, cooking just became a whole lot more involved. $\endgroup$
    – Teak
    Jan 21 '21 at 19:32
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magic_Pudding

magic pudding

Wanting to see the world and unable to live with his uncle anymore, Bunyip Bluegum the koala sets out on his travels, taking only a walking stick. At about lunchtime, feeling more than slightly peckish, he meets Bill Barnacle the sailor and Sam Sawnoff the penguin who are eating a pudding. The pudding is a magic one which, no matter how much one eats it, always reforms into a whole pudding again. He is called Albert, has thin arms and legs and is a bad-tempered, ill-mannered so-and-so into the bargain. His only pleasure is being eaten and on his insistence, Bill and Sam invite Bunyip to join them for lunch.

The interactions will be one of songs (many), battling persons who come to claim delectable living food, racing to catch the fleet footed food as it tries to run away (out of principle; it likes to be eaten) and also three-stooges style comedic violence.

One of the great advantages of being a professional Puddin'-owner,' said Sam Sawnoff, 'is that songs at breakfast are always encouraged. None of the ordinary breakfast rules, such as scowling while eating, and saying the porridge is as stiff as glue and the eggs are as tough as leather, are observed. Instead, songs, roars of laughter, and boisterous jests are the order of the day. For example, this sort of thing,' added Sam, doing a rapid back-flap and landing with a thump on Bill's head. As Bill was unprepared for this act of boisterous humour, his face was pushed into the Puddin' with great violence, and the gravy was splashed in his eye.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/23625/23625-h/23625-h.htm

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    $\begingroup$ This is a very funny answer, but I really must ask: WHY would the food like to be eaten? In fact, why would it allow someone to eat it? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jan 21 '21 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias - you will need to read the Magic Pudding to learn the whole tale. It has excellent pictures! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 21 '21 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias maybe because that's the purpose of food. This is called teleology: "a reason or explanation for something as a function of its end, purpose, or goal, as opposed to as a function of, say, its cause.", which is from Wikipedia. The purpose of earth is to be with other earth, so that's why it falls. The purpose of air is to be with other air, so that's why flames rise. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Jan 21 '21 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea, RonJohn. Very interesting..... $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jan 21 '21 at 15:11
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There will be war against food

If the food have primitive inteligence, it would try to preserve itself from being eaten, spoiled or dissolved (candy would try to climb out from puddle, for example.) Home food would try to escape to wild, to keep itself alive. And cake can simply absorb berries to became berry-cake, so it would survive there rather than be eaten by wild food. And it would increase its inteligency too.

There is also lot of food in wild already, just think of fruits, insects, honey ... and if it have ability to multiply without eating, it would eventually fill all the space and then start spreading to human-occupied places, at least forced by pressure of the mass itself. (And with capability of self-healing it would not degraded to soil, but lives heathy forever.)

But we have already too much of food in storages, gardens etc. etc. so there would be conflicts much earlier, when loose food start massively overtaking cities, villages and such.

The overfoodation (= overpopulation of food) will grow exponentially and unregulated would cover Earth in layers after layers of food, until the monstrosity would collapsed into itself just by gravity force.

So humans would be forced to solve that thread by force and long lasting fight over all the globe.

Also it could destroy the ecosystem easily - cooked rice does not dissolve in watter, so it would be able hunt sea for raw fish and octopuses and sharks to create sushi, sashimi and all kind of such superfood. (If flour and milk and eggs is able mix itself and cook to cake, then rice should be able mix itself with fish and make sushi. Also note, that "living suschi" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikizukuri is made of still living seafood, therefore it could came "superfood of rice" )


Foodibalism

It is well documented canibalism ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_cannibalism ) in times of famine at many times, some only 90 years old ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor#Cannibalism ).

So regardless its eyes, limbs, inteligecy and ability to argue, people will eat the food anyway - as there will be no other food, than food - and it is more simple eat protesting cake, than to kill a fellow human, cook it and then eat protesting coocked fellow human.

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  • $\begingroup$ +10 for "no other food, than food". $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 22 '21 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ Exponential growth is a big problem. Even if apples can only have children once per year (same rate as the apple tree) presumably the baby apple grows to maturity faster than the tree, the reproduction rate increases. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 22 '21 at 9:11
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"How will this impact mankind's interaction with food?"

In many, many ways. Given that food is now intelligent, it will presumably begin to actively avoid permanent destruction. Especially so given that they possess ape-like (caveman) intelligence. I don't know how motile a living cake is, but we could see foods attempting to flee distribution centers, pantries, etc. And they may decide to form some sort of army or active armed resistance to inflict casualties and fatalities on the human population (aka their predators). This could very well end up a serious threat, given that food itself is undying, regenerates, and does not need to ingest energy in the way ordinary living things do.

A kitchen or pantry will almost certainly turn into a sort of prison but for food. Where the goal is no longer to preserve and organize meals, but simply to keep them contained. This is of course a losing proposition:

The biggest issue is one of physics. Two food items can 'zap' another food item of similar type and form into existence. This expends some sort of energy within the food items. But the food items can and will regenerate this energy. Where, exactly, does this energy come from? The food items are, effectively, creating mass out of a regenerating nothing. They can use this ability to burst through any barrier, overrun any population center, turn our planet into some horrific cakeworld, etc. Or, if we could reason with or permanently subdue them, we could use this ability to generate an infinity of almost any element (or, you know, food) one could reasonably expect to find in food, such as Hydrogen or Potassium. A cake covered in platinum shavings is still a cake, is it not?

All in all, things would get incredibly strange incredibly quickly.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, you wrote like an experienced user! I really must come up with some source of energy for the food, so that they aren't creating mass from nothing. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jan 21 '21 at 22:19

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