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What Musician Michelle Zauner Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy

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 musician Michelle Zauner — whose latest album, Jubilee, came out earlier this month and whose memoir, Crying in H Mart, debuted in April — about the kimchee, water bottle, and sunscreen she can’t live without.

I was constantly buying plastic water bottles on the road until I bought this. It was a lifestyle change. Even at home, I always drink from it now. The bottle is a good way to remember how much water I drink each day. I try to drink two bottles a day and I never buy plastic water bottles anymore. It’s kind of annoying to carry around all the time, but I’m so glad I got it.

Maangchi is my hero. She’s a pretty famous Korean YouTube vlogger that has really demystified Korean cooking for a non-Korean audience. I adore her: She was such an anchor for me during a difficult time in my life. So much of the inspiration behind Crying in H Mart was learning to cook through her videos. When she came out with a cookbook, I actually got to meet her at this event that she did, where she signed my copy of the book. We’ve been in touch ever since. I love all of her recipes and I’m always cooking from this book.

I buy this if I don’t have time to make chonggak kimchee, which was my favorite style of kimchee growing up. I think it’s the most underrated style of kimchee, too. I talk about it in my book. A Korean meal doesn’t feel complete to me if it doesn’t have that kimchee; I eat it with pretty much any Korean dish. I’ll typically leave this out on the counter for two or three days so it gets more sour and fermented.

My friend Craig Hendrix — the drummer in Japanese Breakfast, who co-produced Jubilee — told me about this coffee. I have this memory of him making a pot in a French press. It was the greatest cup of coffee I ever had and now I drink it every morning. It just hits my palate in a certain way. My days don’t feel like they’ve started until I have it. I buy five-pound bags every six weeks or so.

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I got back into chess last year, but first started playing it when I was in the fourth grade. I joined a chess club and started going to tournaments. I was obsessed with chess puzzles and had a private Russian tutor. My team won third place at the state championships and I was on a billboard. Like everyone else, I was so enchanted by Queen’s Gambit and started to play chess again in my downtime. I like having a hobby that I can just enjoy and doesn’t have to be a lucrative thing. It’s been fun revisiting the game and getting better and sharper. I probably play five to ten games a day on Chess.com. You get paired with people in your ranking, so it’s challenging. There are also tutorials and puzzles that are just as fun.

Nice ceramics are a vice of mine. I treated myself to these plates early on in the pandemic, when everyone looked to small things to give them joy. I love using them and I love the way food looks on them. That may be a very basic thing to love, but I think Japanese ceramics look really nice and it’s a real joy to put food on them. I feel like they make my meals taste better.

Moleskine Classic Notebook

I probably have an archive of 20 or 30 Moleskines. I’ve been using them since I was 16. It’s just a brand that I’m very comfortable with. I like the way that they feel and I’ve gotten very used to them. I buy the ones with no lines and blank pages because I’ll frequently come up with one-line lyrics and just revisit a full page of different lyrics to pick what I want to start a song with. It really helps me with my songwriting process. I keep a lot of lists, too — of groceries or projects or to-do items. I also do a lot of outlining in this. I do everything in my Moleskine. They’re a bit spendy, so buying them feels like I’m taking myself very seriously.

I don’t really wear jewelry often, and I used to never wear anything in my second earhole. I pierced my second hole with a safety pin when I was a teenager and it has always been kind of tight, which is why I never used it. But having this earring that occupies both holes is like a two-in-one product. It has finally established my second hole as a real spot for an earring. That makes me feel fancy. I really like Sandy Liang as a brand — the clothing and accessories are so fun.

I get so inundated and confused by all the information and skin-care products out there. I’m in my 30s and I want to have good skin and know how to take care of it, so I wanted to find a dermatologist who could just give me a simple regimen to follow. My friend Jason Kim recommended I see a dermatologist called Dr. Daniel Belkin, who prescribed a bunch of things. Among them were a retinoid and this sunscreen, which he said to get because using retinoids makes your skin very sensitive to the sun. I put this on every day, even if I’m inside. It’s kind of oily, which I like because I have dry skin. Applying sunscreen every day also makes me feel fancy and mature.

I use this almost every day, especially if I’m seeing people. I have pretty sparse eyebrows that are spread apart. Learning how to fill them in with a pencil was a game changer. I really like this one. If I had to only use one makeup product, it would be this.

I got really into eye shadow on tour. It’s great stage makeup because you can match it to your outfit and it feels very theatrical. Putting different eye shadows on became a big part of my show routine — whenever I gear up for a new tour, I buy a new eye-shadow palette. This one was the first palette that I bought and it has lasted me like five years. I still use it all the time.

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What Musician Michelle Zauner Can’t Live Without