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Who is the real wimp, Amy Chua or her husband?

In today’s New York Times, David Brooks makes a great point about Amy Chua’s wrong-headed parenting choices.

When the Tiger Mother starts chewing her cubs, the larger question is why doesn’t the father of the house step in to restore sanity? What sort of father today cedes all child-rearing authority to his wife?

“Extreme parenting” is tyranny and madness. Crushed under the regime of an Amy Chua, a smart child who is well-grounded and self-protective would run away from home.

Even in a happy household, it is every husband’s sacred obligation to protect his children from momentary mood swings of the motherly variety.

Just before dinner when everyone including the dog seems to need a stiff one, Mr. Henry will on rare occasions hear Mrs. Henry carping at Little Henry about some minor transgression normally involving a small sin of omission like not putting something away in its proper place.

In order to reestablish family harmony at these critical junctures, Mr. Henry steps into the breach. First he tells Little Henry to run upstairs and hide until dinner is ready. Then he suggest to Mrs. Henry that a little bite of hors d’oeuvres might hit the spot. Then – and this is key – he refuses to engage in a fight with her no matter what.

Once dinner has begun to work its magic and conversation begins to wander merrily, all will be well.

Henry Agonistes

Thinking and re-thinking the problem of what to bestow upon Mrs. Henry in honor of her milestone birthday, Mr. Henry is beginning to suspect that he might be over-thinking.

But how would you know? What if he hasn’t given it enough thought already?

Taking under advisement the wise words of counsel generously sent by Owen, Klee, theDiva, Yossa, Jezebella and Glinda of Teeny Manolo, Mr. Henry made an interim decision and bought a beautiful hand-blown glass bowl from Sara Japanese Pottery on Lexington Avenue at 70th Street.

Since the bowl was a perfect receptacle for cranberry sauce, he jumped the birthday queue and presented it on Thanksgiving.

Success! (temporarily, at least) … She loves it.

However, a bowl is not an intimate gift. It can’t be worn against the skin, nor is it the treasured keepsake of a romantic moment. The search continues.

Men in France

In the forested hills and planted valleys of the Dordogne, men have strong, suntanned forearms and weathered, unshaven faces. They get up early, work before breakfast, drink wine at lunch, and eat a light supper of soup de lègumes and cantal cheese.

For a week Mr. Henry has been dawdling in southwestern France eating a diet that would frighten Old King Cole.

Foie gras has become a feature at every meal including this morning’s breakfast that included a peach and foie gras tart.

Last night My Phuong picked a basket of blackberries along the fence, reduced them in pear syrup, and strained them for an amazing coulis that she dripped over lightly floured slices of foie gras quickly sautéed in butter.

Ten thousand years ago, just before the last Ice Age ended and patterns of life here changed for good, men in the Dordogne hunted reindeer, chiefly, as well as small deer and massive long-horned aurochs (wild cattle), bison, giant red deer, the untamable Prwezalski’s horse, ibex, wild asses, wild donkeys, woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth. They lived in terror of the great European cave bear, extinct cousin of the Alaskan brown bear, of the mountain lion and the saber-toothed cat. Carrying flint-tipped spears, the tall, strong, fur-clad Cro-Magnon tracked herds across a treeless tundra. To prevent scurvy, they ate the liver and heart raw.

Mitochondrial DNA testing suggests that modern peoples of the Dordogne are genetically very similar to peoples who flourished here in the Mesolithic Era. These homo sapiens lived alongside the Neanderthal for more than 12,000 years until finally, unable to resist competition from their more aggressive rival species (us), the gentle, artistic Neanderthal disappeared about 29,000 years ago.

Pears, apples, peaches, apricots, prunes – everything here grows to a splendid ripeness. Tomatoes hang heavy on the vine advertising their tart attractions in vulgar shades of red. Vines bearing little blue grapes cover the landscape for miles in every direction. Mr. Henry’s cabinet is stocked with straight-sided bottles of Bordeaux, startlingly inexpensive and delicious.

On vacation in France the principal rôle for a man is to drive the car, a stick shift, naturellement. Roads aren’t as bad as they once were, although British tourists seem to take their half out of the middle. Shopkeepers can be dour, but sellers with stalls in country markets are a delight ­– quick-witted and fun.

The weather is changeable. Days are hot, nights refreshingly cool. Mr. Henry understands why the artists of Lascaux constructed museums deep inside climate controlled caves. In the course of an afternoon humidity rises and falls. Squalls with fierce winds come barreling off the Atlantic up gentle, vine-covered slopes to surprise us at poolside. Such a bother! We repair to the house for a game of cards.