Route J-1

Cookie Diplomacy

Posted on Friday, July 11th, 2014 at 5:19 pm.



I just learned that the chocolate chip cookie is celebrating its 75th year! I also learned that it was created in Massachusetts. It’s funny how you can spend your life eating something and never consider how it actually came into existence. Thanks to the encyclopedic brain of Ocean Edge executive chef, Phil Flath, 80 students from Macedonia, Bulgaria, Jamaica, Romania, Ireland, Serbia, Poland (and there were more), as well as myself, learned how connected culinary traditions are to the people of Massachusetts. Chef Phil taught us how to make the original chocolate chip cookie recipe.

We also learned how to make Chowdah! That’s clam chowder for the non-New Englanders reading this, and we learned to make Fluffernutters. These creations all have a historical significance worth reading about. Well, maybe significance is pushing it, but they have traceable histories which are pretty interesting. Who knew that you could actually trace the history of a sandwich made of marshmallow cream and peanut butter!

I sat next to a group of students from Romania. The young man next to me, who is on his first summer experience in the United States, said he was definitely paying attention to how the chowder was made. He conceded, as did his female friend next to him, that cooking for a girlfriend is not really something young men do in Romania. We polled the entire audience and, sure enough, this rang true for all the countries represented.  Chef Phil assured those young men that they will win the woman of their dreams with these recipes. They can go home and do the unexpected! This is what I love about the J1 Exchange Visitor Program – people come to the United States to gain skills in their jobs and make new friends, and they leave learning what makes this country tick. They take home a little something unexpected every day!  I think Chef Phil may have started a revolution today – if not for the young women of Romania – perhaps for the moms still cooking for their sons.


Exchange participants watching the chef’s demonstration

Categories: Who's the Person Behind

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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