FimFiction Link - Short ID: 507166/hawker-culture
Published: Nov '21
'Hawker Culture' is a three thousand-word oneshot. With Twilight as the sole princess of Equestria, borders have been opened up and now creatures of all kinds live along ponies as citizens. In an attempt to preserve their culture and further "universal friendship" it's been decreed that all of them may open food stalls under a system of government-subsidized stalls. The fic reads almost like a journalistic article, which guides us through each individual species' cuisine, while hinting at how each of them copes with the new world.
I am once again a bit humbled. I originally didn't even want to click on this story due to it happening in the post-S9 continuity, but let me tell you, I didn't regret caving in. This story simply feels special. The author's style is so sublime, there are no big screaming sentences about how what's being shown here is bad, but the fic regardless feels incredibly somber at times. While individually every species is happier than it used to be before they came together, subtle and not-so-subtle signs point towards a kind of cultural destruction. One not due to malice or any planned intent, but because it's more convenient than clinging to the old ways.
The author also weaves each species' characteristics incredibly well into their foods. There is nothing here that doesn't feel evident. And while that might sound like an insult, I mean it as a compliment. Things just feel logical. Funnily enough my favorite part was the segment about Yaks. Even though in the show they are the least favorite species of mine, I feel like the author exploits their weirdness very well here. They are presented as an odd bunch, yet you can't help but feel a bit for them, especially when you read lines like this:
>The youngest generation of yaks—the yak chef’s grandsons—speak in a standard Equestrian dialect.
Similarly, the Changeling cuisine was also done very well. The author was able to make them feel alien with the "death soup." The fact that they don't need food, but are peer-pressured into creating their own kind also expands the world, both letting us peer into the society-at-large, but also the changelings' drastic want to conform and not be seen as monsters.
The only part I didn't enjoy is when the "Concerned Parents" organization is mentioned which tries to ban meat consumption, because "won't somebody think of the children." Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming that it's out of place, it makes sense, but unlike everything else in the fic, it just feels a bit cliché. Everyone else has something extremely compelling going on and yet the matter of the most unusual cuisine found in the new Kingdom is sacrificed on the altar of a such a banal trope. It didn't ruin my enjoyment of the fic, but I felt like it's something worth bringing up.
Overall: 9/10 This fic took the worst aspect of MLP 2.0 and created something outstanding out of it. I can only recommend it.