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As A Kid Who Was Constantly Failing His Exams, Here’s What My Mum Made Me Eat Change My F9s To A1s

As A Kid Who Was Constantly Failing His Exams, Here’s What My Mum Made Me Eat Change My F9s To A1s

Things that my mum made me consume during my exams

I grew up in a typical kiasu Chinese family, where I was sent for tuition classes, music lessons, and swimming lessons on the weekends. Clearly, my parents were hoping that I would be a prodigy at something or at the very least, do well in exams.

NEWS FLASH: I’m not a prodigy at anything

During the exam period, everything only got worse; music and swimming lessons were cancelled to make room for more tuition classes. I was fed a plethora of vitamins that would “help me be smarter”. Thinking back to it now, did my parents think that they were steroids for the brain? Here are some of the things they fed me, believing that I’ll become a child prodigy after.

Talisman Tea

Exams - Buddha
Credit: Unsplash

Okay, I blame my grandmother for this one.

If you grew up in a Buddhist or Taoist household, you might have experienced this. My grandma would queue at a temple, slip in a nice donation, and customise a blessing for me—almost like how you can customise your food at kiosks now. She would burn that yellow talisman paper and sink it into a glass of water with the belief that it would “protect me, help me do better for my exams, and make me lucky”.

If anything, she probably did it to give herself some form of reassurance that I was protected and blessed by the people in the skies. It tasted exactly like how you would imagine it; water with an intense smoky flavour, almost like a ‘talisman tea’. 

It starts off with a lighter note and only becomes stronger as you get to the end of it. Make sure to stop just as the water level touches the top of the ash remains. Studies have shown that talisman ash water is a rare source of lead poisoning, and has been known to cause it. Of course, when I got back my results, I wished I got lead poisoning.

Chicken Essence

Credit: @brands_sg

Most people either hate it or love it. You won’t often find someone who is just ‘meh’ about chicken essence. I absolutely love chicken essence. The earthy umami-filled liquid tasted so good to me that I could chug a few bottles at one go. My parents gave me a bottle before every exam paper, only telling me that it was “good for you”.

I never questioned it, and it gave me faux confidence. I walked out of exam rooms with the confidence that I aced them, only to get a B, a beating, and a nagging.

I did some research and apparently, this chicken essence “improves concentration and mood while reducing tiredness.” 

I made sure to always have a bottle before my math exams, and I’ve had a pretty good track record of acing my math papers. I did not get As for my other exams though, so maybe it really did help after all.

Cod Liver Oil

Credit: @lysiwellness

I’ve shared about my love for chicken essence, now I’m going to share about my HATRED for cod liver oil. I swear whoever invented this hates children. I’m trying to recall the flavour of it as I write this article but it feels like I have suppressed the memory of it.

WebMD’s analysis on cod liver oil states that “There is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.”

This pisses me off.

For years, I endured having a spoonful of this awful-tasting glob every morning before school. I understand it contains vitamins A and D, and a fat called Omega-3, but surely there were other supplements I could have taken. Thinking back now, I would have rather eaten food from my army camp, and that was bad.


Credit: Unsplash

I’m kinda nuts about nuts. I love a good crunch, and I will always love that earthy and toasty taste that nuts have. 

Surprisingly, I hated walnuts when I was younger. However, my parents insisted that I should have more. They simply explained to me that “it looks like a brain so it is good for your brain”. I hated the slightly bitter taste that walnuts had, but I slowly grew to love it. 

Was there some sliver of truth in their “looks like brain, good for brain” statement? There is. 

Walnuts are one of the most nutritious foods; they have almost twice as many antioxidants as other commonly consumed nuts such as almonds and peanuts. Similarly to cod liver oil, they contain DHA (a form of Omega-3 fatty acids) which are fundamental building blocks of the brain. I would have gladly eaten extra portions of walnuts than eat half a spoonful of cod liver oil. Why parents why?! 

Food to eat before exams

I’m sure our parents only mean to give us the best, and hope that we do as well as possible for our own (but really, their) future. But please, there are alternatives to specific benefits *cough* walnuts *cough*. Having gone through these experiences myself, I’ll be thinking twice on what to give my kids in the future when their exam period is coming up.

I was a less-than-smart kid growing up which made my parents feed me loads of “brain food”. This is my story. Now tell me yours!

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