Nick Offerman recently logged on to a video call with the screen name Megan Mullally. “It’s my humble boast,” he explained. “My wife is a goddess.”
Offerman (“Parks and Recreation,” “Making It”), an epitome of masculine zest and an absolute woman, spoke from a spare room of the Los Angeles home he shares with Mullally. Behind him was a four-poster bed, built in his wood shop. At his feet a walnut milking stool, which he had built himself. A craftsman, musician, actor, author and amateur naturalist, Offerman recently added an advisory columnist to his repertoire. Even as he made the rounds for the new Hulu limited series “Pam & Tommy,” in which he plays a low-level porn mogul, he launched “Donkey Thoughts,” a Substack newsletter where he answers questions from readers.
“I identify with the mule or the donkey,” he said. “I liken myself much more to a hard-working pack animal than to a creature of more elegance or refinement. I’m not a racehorse. Or any other beautiful four-legged friend. I’m more the person who carries the feed to the racehorses. But it seems to be working for me.”
Offerman sees the newsletter as an answer to questions about woodworking, relationships, masculinity and food. He offered a sample: Q: What’s the best thing to do with bacon? Answer: Put it in your mouth.
While preparing the first issue — with questions from friends like George Saunders, Jeff Tweedy and Laurie Anderson — he took an hour to share his cultural, sartorial and culinary enthusiasm. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
1. The Scotch Egg That assembly of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in pork sausage, breaded and fried is simply the most beautifully conceived and constructed food item. You can take it in your pocket and eat it on a walk. It’s also utterly brilliant in a pub.
2. The Sycamore It is the largest of the deciduous trees. If you like a large leafy maple or London plane tree, the sycamore is the champion. Its bark has this beautiful, very fashionable camouflage patch. And the leaves themselves, you could sew three of them together and make a smart throw that will take you right through spring to your summer linens. Finally, the wood itself – when milled and used in cabinet making, sycamore is simply breathtakingly beautiful.
3. Laurie Anderson Her works are as perfect as Rembrandt’s, but the blood of anarchy runs through her veins. She, more than anyone in my life, has given me permission to misbehave in my pursuit of a life that creates things. Laurie Anderson’s spoken word pieces and songs are so wonderfully strange. I was like, how can I grab my toolbox and communicate that?
4. Wooden Boat Magazine I was just getting into a good woodworker when I discovered it, and I realized that if I got good enough at dining tables and chests of drawers, I could switch to a sailboat or a canoe, a wooden watercraft. That just exploded my brain in a way I haven’t recovered from. Right now I’m even thinking about plans and deciding whether to build a stand-up paddleboard or an ocean kayak, because Los Angeles isn’t a great canoe city.
5. Girdle Galloway Cattle I fell in love with a shepherd named James Rebanks. I went to visit him on his farm. We went cow shopping in Scotland. I just absolutely loved this breed. So much so that I now have a few cows in his herd. The beef they pack on their frames is second to none. I’m actually going in April to meet my cows for the first time. It’s all part of my effort to return to a first-hand knowledge of where my food comes from and how to harvest it sustainably and responsibly so that Mother Nature will still like me.
6. White’s Boots of Spokane I discovered this company about 18 years ago. I really admire any American company with that old-fashioned feel of making valuable items to last instead of making them disposable. They make the most incredible lumberjack based work boots. I still wear the same pair I bought 18 years ago. They are not cheap as they last a long time. Your grandkids can wear these boots. I wear them with jeans when I’m on tour and I can dance in them. I’ve never had to run from the authorities in them, but if I had to, I could.
7. Gaia Our ancestral mother, Gaia is represented all of creation in the form of a benevolent woman. The older I get, the less I want to go to the mall and the more I want to go to the woods and hang out with her. How can I try to be part of the movement of good people trying to bring our civilization back to a semblance of sustainability? The good news is that the answers to our global problems are often delightful. And quite tasty.
8. Hasty Bake Charcoal Grills Megan is the curator in our house. I’m very happy with that. But the grilling situation is a place where I rule. The Hasty Bake is simply beautiful. It is a double-wide rectangular grill with a ventilation system. The fire lives in two separate charcoal trays that you can raise and lower to fine-tune your temperature. I can feed up to 40 people with this thing. I can grill anything you can think of. And then I can smoke meat with it too. During the pandemic, Megan became really obsessed with cooking and baking, and I became obsessed with smoking pork shoulders.
9. The Gap Band My cousin and I really wanted to be a famous breakdancing duo in the mid 80’s. In Central Illinois. We were somewhat familiar at the Shanahan Skating Rink. It was very difficult at that time to find suitable music. All we could get on the radio was Top 40 stuff. But the Gap Band somehow survived. It really fueled my development as a teenager. I probably play the Gap Band in my wood shop more than any other funk band.
10. Robin Wall Kimmerer She is an older thinker of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She beautifully and generously conveys their oral tradition of their healthy relationship with nature, which she calls an economy of reciprocity. She is also a hugely accredited botanist. Her writing is the gentle medicine we stupid people need if we are to have any hope of saving our relationship with Mother Nature. Start with “Gathering Moss” or “Braiding Sweetgrass.”