Tag Archives: pimples

Eating All Your Rice Yields a Clean-Faced Spouse

The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as MT.

BD: So tell me about why your mom always tells you to eat everything.

MT: In Vietnam, if you don’t finish your bowl of rice, the number of rice grains left in your bowl corresponds with the amount of acne on your spouse’s face. My mom believes this superstition. I don’t know where she learned it from. It’s common among most Asian cultures.

BD: Does everyone in your family believe it?

MT: Yeah, pretty much. Though it’s silly, I think it’s one of those things you never acknowledge, but you try to maintain. But I’m mostly just hungry. So I eat everything anyways.


I had heard a similar idea from my mother, and I found it interesting to hear the same idea in another culture. Though most people here in America say to finish all your food, because there are people who go without, this is an entirely different perspective on a reason to finish food. This belief also reinforces the values of Vietnamese culture, the future-orientation towards one’s future spouse.

Rice and Pimples

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“So when I was little, I was really bad about finishing the food that I ate. […] My mother used to try to convince me to finish my food by telling me that for each grain of rice that I didn’t finish and left in my bowl, I would later on get a pimple and hopefully that’s not true.”

My informant’s mother is from Taiwan. Interestingly, I’ve heard the exact same thing from my own mom, who is also from Taiwan. Its possible that this way of getting kids to finish their rice may have originated somewhere in Taiwan. The country has had a history of food shortages among the lower classes, especially during the Japanese occupation. This piece of folklore may have originated as a way for the older generation who have suffered through food shortages to convince their youngsters (who haven’t experienced famine and don’t understand the importance of eating) by appealing to their vanity.