1. Do you say “okey dokey”?
2. Who taught you how to cook?
3. What are the songs that hold the strongest memories for you?

Today’s Something Else: A Memories-Stuffed Essay
“Always & Forever” is filled with one hit song after another. But the one that sticks out in my mind is Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe.” It always takes me back to Paris, stress relief and becoming a dough-kneading pro.

Yes, all of those things added together total Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” in my head. Stay with me, and I’ll explain.

Every time I hear the pulse of the hi-hat combined with that mellow deep-bass croon, I am back being a student in Paris all over again. The day I first heard Barry White was a particularly hard day all around — I was punished for being late to my class with M. Decroux (my master/teacher), I had a difficult time with my “American” conversations class filled with French Bankers (who insisted that everyone in America always says “okey dokey” all because I used it once in jest) and my Ballet Master (Rene, a famous dancer of his generation who was now teaching the advanced boys class so he could keep himself in the game) was doubly hard on me, making me jump again and again and again until my legs were exhausted from being “strengthened.” On the subway ride home, I agonized over how I would tell Rene that I wasn’t planning to pursue a career as a dancer and that he should maybe spend more time grooming the others; how I could not oversleep tomorrow and be late for the Le Maitre; and whether I was going to be fired for teaching inappropriate slang. (Yes, “okey dokey” is inappropriate.)

So, anyway, it had been a less-than-perfect day.

Luckily, it was Thursday and that was dinner-at-our-apartment night. It was a tradition that started when my roommates and I adopted a Japanese chef, Sugaia, who had been working his way around Europe learning all of those chef secrets to take back to Tokyo to open his own restaurant. Every Thursday, he’d show up with bags of food and a few new secrets, some of which he was nice enough to pass onto me. Slicing, dicing, chopping, sautéing, flipping, fricasséeing and other methods of tearing up a kitchen — I learned to do all of that by watching Sugaia at work. Those Thursday meals were always heaven, and we were very popular with all of our starving student friends.

On this particular Thursday night, cooking was the best stress relief. As we prepped our food — I was making a pâte brisée — we listened to Radio Luxembourg, a bootleg station that played American and British rock, pop and R&B. I was in the middle of kneading my dough when “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” came on. I had never heard Barry White before, but he immediately had an impact on me: the rhythm of the song became the rhythm in which I kneaded my dough. With every tap of the cowbell, with every mellow Barry White vocal stroke, my dough was perfected and my troubles slipped away. Before I knew it, I was singing “love, baby” directly to the dough — much to Sugaia’s giggling glee — and dancing and kneading better than I’d ever kneaded before. The final product was Superb!

The result was a fantastic dinner and a memory that flows back at the drop of that smooth, smooth voice.

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