So is it ok to just use essen for both situations to play it safe and not accidentally mess up? Is it bad/frowned upon to use essen for both or does it not matter
It's pronounced pretty much how it's spelled (one of the pros of German). But having said that it's definitely something difficult to pronounce at first. The "pf" is one of the harder sounds to produce for English speakers, but it does exist in our language.
Anyway, the way I learned was to think of saying "Helpful" When said all together you get the same "pf" sound out. So try to remove the other sounds around the "p f."
The middle of the word ("er") is weird (Rs in German are weird). In this instance it's pronounced similar to "eh" followed immediately by a (slightly) open "ah" sound.
The "d" at the end is pronounced like a "t." Every word that ends with a "d" in German pretty much always makes a "t" sound; except in some loan words.
Hope this helps! You should note though that this based off of Standard German and so can vary from region to region. For instance, some north and central parts of Germany may not include the "p" sound at all. Rs vary a lot regionally, too.
Bread is uncountable in English, so they are saying that it's eating some ammount of bread ('breads' is used when talking about types of breads, I think). Brot is countable in German (Brote meaning loafs or slices of bread), so they (presumably) wated to show that bread-Brot is used differently in English and German. Just my assumption.
Because Pferd is a neuter noun. Unfortunately, there are no strict rules in German about which nouns are feminine, neuter or masculine, so you'll have to just learn it. No strict rules, but here are some non-strict :D https://www.lsa.umich.edu/german/hmr/Grammatik/Gender/Gender.html
The German sentence we are asked to translate is not "Das Pferd frisst
das Brot." There is a difference between "bread" and "the bread." As die Eule has indicated, without the/das, "bread" can be considered "some bread", rather than something more specific (i.e.,