what i cant live without

What Hua Hsu Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Devlin Claro

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and the electric toothbrush. We asked writer Hua Hsu, whose memoir, Stay True, is out now, about the food pouches he steals from his son, the Adidas slides he’s worn for 20 years, and the spicy peanuts he has to keep away from himself.

I bought these linen pants by mistake. I was in a hurry and put them on in the dressing room and they looked a bit ridiculous, but they were so comfortable, and I figured I would just wear them at home or something. And then when I left, I realized they were women’s pants. But I love them. They’re more comfortable than wearing shorts. I’ve worn them every day for the past three months. I’m sure there’s a more flattering version of this pant that someone else makes that’s actually designed for men, but I’m very loyal to these. I’ve bought three pairs so far.

[Editor’s note: The French Linen Balloon pants are currently unavailable on Muji’s U.S. site. They’re in stock at Muji Australia.]

From $33

I just think they’re classic. I think I still have a pair from 1995, so they have been quite durable. I think the classic Adidas slide feels substantial enough — it’s much heftier than just a flip-flop, but it feels a little bit more weather resistant than other kinds of sandals. They’re one of the few things that have been just a true constant in my life for 20 years. For me, the blue ones are the only ones that truly matter.

Cloudberg Disposable Barf Bags
$10 for 24
$10 for 24

My kid is still susceptible to the occasional bout of motion sickness. A friend who’s very good at finding the perfect product for a random need found these barf bags, and they’re great. You do the deed, you tie it up. There’s a little notch in the ring where it sort of cinches off, so you can seal it pretty easily. They don’t necessarily look like barf bags. They look more like cones for soccer drills or something. But they’re just always ready for us.

I had this fellowship a few years ago at the New York Public Library, and it was just this office full of writers, and we would have to go in and write every day. If you didn’t go in, someone would talk to you about why you weren’t writing. It was a very intense environment. But on the first day, a novelist and historian both started talking about how important it was for them to use Scrivener to write their books. I’m not particularly systematic when it comes to keeping track of my research or annotating things. I tend to hope that my writing just falls into place, like Tetris. I was really intrigued by how evangelical they were about Scrivener. It has the functionality of a traditional word-processing program, like Word or Pages, but it also allows you to move chapters around or move sections around in a way that allows you to kind of envision how something that’s 50 to 100 pages will actually feel, which is something I have a hard time with. I still don’t understand probably 70 percent of the features, but it was totally essential for me when I was writing my latest book.


On a whim, I bought a desktop computer six or seven years ago because it reminded me of being in a computer lab in college. And ever since then, I’ve just found it incredibly easy to kind of only use a desktop. That doesn’t mean I’m not constantly on my phone, but there’s something about the functionality of a desktop that I kind of need now. Maybe it just means I am very old. When I had that fellowship at the library, we were using really old PC desktops, and the only way I could get anything done was being on this strange computer with minimal functionality.

I was late to work one day and I had nothing to grab for my commute, and I just took one of my son’s pouches. For a couple years he would only eat things that came in pouches, like yogurt or applesauce. There was this one pouch — an apple-cinnamon-raisin oatmeal puree — and it was actually really good. I was driving, crushing this pouch and thinking: This is actually a pretty convenient way to live. I looked for an adult version and found Noka. When I’m working, I tend to have a lot of desk snacks. Rather than leave my office, I’d rather just forage in my desk. I have a few boxes of Noka pouches that I’ll eat between classes.

A friend sent us a box of Cometeer, and I thought it was sort of ridiculous at first because they arrive with dry ice and you kind of wonder how good it could possibly be. But having made coffee in all these different ways — French press, Chemex, etc. — Cometeer is actually a pretty good product. The coffee tastes good, and it’s really easy to use. It’s easy to travel with too. You keep one and let it melt naturally before you need to add hot water. It’s also weirdly satisfying to dislodge the little frozen puck from the cup. It requires more effort than pressing a button, but it’s not so much effort that if you really need a cup of coffee, you won’t just make one. It sort of suits the level of coffee intake I want in my life right now.

These are mouth-numbing peanuts coated in a peppercorn dust. I don’t eat these as often as I want to, because I’m assuming they’re not great for you. But they’re absolutely delicious. I usually eat way too many in one sitting, so I have to deprive myself of them because otherwise I would severely disrupt the pH of my body. My parents will send me boxes of snacks every now and then, and this was one of the things they sent. It’s something I always look for whenever I’m in an Asian grocery store or in Chinatown.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

What Hua Hsu Can’t Live Without