About Me

 

In my element. (Credit: Joanna Tung)

In my element.
(Credit: Joanna Tung)

Hello there! My name is Julia and welcome to Skilly ‘n’ Duff.

This all started… well, we have to go way back (not too far, geez). I was born (and raised) in the Greater Los Angeles Area to parents who’d immigrated to California from China’s Guangdong Province decades before. Somewhere between the age of six and nearly burning down our second house with my older brother (we wanted to see how flammable dried leaves were: surprise, they’re very flammable) and trying to fit 18 years of my life into two suitcases and a cardboard box to move clear across the country for college, I fell in love.

Not romantic love, but that coming into your own, “Yes, these are the people and the things that make me, me” kind of love–both can give you butterflies. Eggs stir-fried with tomatoes and ladled over a bed of white rice, black sesame soup flecking your teeth even after you’ve licked your spoon clean, and the hiss of scallion pancakes crisping in a pan. I found restless feet and a wandering heart, soothed only by family camping trips in the summer and passport stamps. I found swing dancing and theatre. I found language and literature. I found food.

In May 2014, I graduated with a B.A. in English from Boston University. After falling madly in love with root vegetables, fresh jugs of apple cider and apple cider-related products, and the way the city breathed on autumn mornings, it was bittersweet to move back to consistent weather, a sprawling mess of a public transportation system, and avocados the size of kettlebells (the slack-jawed looks of disbelief I got in Boston when my parents shipped me a few, let me tell ya).

After years of waffling and a few nudges from good friends, here we are: a place where I can share my love for food, travel, and all the miraculous little happenstances in life. But more than anything, this will be a place where I can hold myself accountable to my first love–storytelling–and where I’ll have no excuse but to try and write regularly, no matter how impossible it might seem.

And it has been a start-and-stop, sputtering affair, especially since moving to New York City in the winter of 2017 in the dogged hope of giving myself a chance [for once] to make a life from what I love [theatre]. But all we can do is press forward, right? Write erratically and badly, but write all the same.

Frankly, I’m terrified.

But a little terror’s the spice of life… ?

Thank you for swinging by. Thank you for reading. The kitchen’s down the hall and to the right–help yourself to something in the fridge–you deserve it.


 

Skilly ‘n’ … what?

“What’s your favourite book?”

… is a terrible question. Please don’t ask me that ever. I mean, you can ask me, but be prepared for nothing more than a series of deepening frowns and vague, noncommittal arm flapping. Call it many years spent amassing a number of “favourites”, call it laziness.

“What’s your most important book?”

Now that I can answer: Brian Jacques’ Redwall series (I know that’s more than one book, but shhh, I won’t tell if you won’t). Within those pages of swashbuckling woodland critters, rhymes and riddles, sprawling feasts, and rollicking adventure was where I first fell in love with words (and started to truly appreciate food):

"There's goin' to be a mutinee,
mate, I'm a-tellin' you,
if there ain't skilly'n'duff for tea,
to feed this big fat crew.
Don't dish 'em up no salad leaves,
or no burrgooly stew,
if there ain't skilly'n'duff for tea,
they might eat me'n'you!
Whoa! Skilly'n'duff, that's the stuff,
for my ole crew t'chew,
it's hot'n'thick so take your pick,
it'll do the trick if you feel sick.
So fill yore tum, by gum ole chum,
don't pant'n'wheeze'n'puff,
you'll run like a hare an' fight like a bear,
on good ole skilly'n'duff.
So don't stand lookin' silly, feed me lots o' skilly
  ...an' duff!"

(High Rhulain, 317)

Skilly ‘n’ duff in the Redwall world is “a thick sweet sauce (skilly) and pudding (duff) [that] contains a variety of ingredients: wild plums, arrowroot, chopped chestnuts, damsons and blackberries, all cased up in a ball of spongy pastry like a great dumpling.”

Delicious and pithy with a good ring to it: sold.

Dark chocolate and matcha are easy enough to understand, but “fernweh”?

German. (Noun). It is more than wanderlust. “Farsickness”–at once wonderful and sad, missing a place you’ve never been.

I’ve always fancied that I had something of a frantic heart. I love being home–a physical home–but I’m always longing for this fuzzy, untouchable, capital-s Something. I think that’s part of the reason I love travelling so much–it scratches this chronic itch of mine to see more and be lost in all of these lives outside of my own; maybe it’s the grandest form of escapism, maybe it’s self-discovery of a different kind.

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