Moving back home this past spring after getting her first taste of independence at the
University of Maryland was a struggle for Leah Packer, but it paved the way for a new dynamic between her and her parents—and a new YouTube cooking channel.
Rachel Packer, Leah’s mother, quickly realized that her freshman daughter had no real cooking skills. This came as a shock to the Olney mom, who helps people adopt healthier lifestyles through her wellness company, MatzoBall Fitness.
“Here I am, working as a wellness coach, and my own daughter can’t survive in the wild,” says Rachel, 54, with a laugh.
As mother and daughter began to cook together in quarantine, they realized there were probably many other young adults like Leah lacking in basic culinary skills. And because of the pandemic, these college students were living in compromised situations with limited or no dining arrangements.
“These kids can’t survive on gum and Pop-Tarts,” says Rachel. (Her daughter jokingly begs to differ.)
The two decided to create a YouTube channel, Because I Said So, for newbie cooks. The name is a nod to their mother-daughter relationship; it’s the typical parent response when a kid asks why they have to do something.
“We especially want college kids who may be feeling isolated to know that there’s a place for them to find good food, get some laughs and know they’re not alone,” says Rachel.
Whether it’s hearty “smashed” potatoes or a delicious vegan apple crisp, each recipe is tailored to be very simple to follow. “My cooking skills are at the level of a 10-year-old and I can follow along with these recipes,” says Leah, 19. All of the recipes, created by her mother, are kosher and allergy friendly.
The channel has received positive responses not only from friends and family, but also from strangers who stumbled upon it and tried out the recipes.
“It’s a small milestone, but it shows that people want the content,” says Leah Packer, proudly.
Launching a YouTube channel together and working as a collaborative team have provided the Packers a unique opportunity to bond. Rachel, a self-described “creative mad genius,” was already familiar with hosting cooking demos through her work. Leah, who had no previous filmmaking experience, taught herself how to record, edit and produce their videos on her smartphone.
Besides easy-to-follow healthy recipes, viewers can expect affectionate nagging and hilarious banter between mother and daughter.
“Nothing we do is scripted,” says Leah. “We work best when we riff of each other.”
Rachel admits that she wasn’t always a good cook. It wasn’t until her son was diagnosed with severe food allergies and Leah was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease that she got into cooking.
At the time, there weren’t many resources available for people with allergies and dietary restrictions, let alone the plethora of products that we have today.
“I was terrified I would use the wrong ingredient,” says Rachel. “I needed to know how to feed my family and figure out how to be nutritious without allergens. I didn’t learn because I wanted to be a cook; it’s because I had to be.”
That experience inspired Rachel to further explore the correlation between food and health, which eventually led to MatzoBall Fitness.
“Cooking is just a part of what I do now,” she says fondly. “I love how food connects people.”
Now, cooking is connecting her and her daughter with fans across the internet.
“It makes us so happy to see the people we’ve reached and the meals that are made,” says Leah Packer. “I’m just really excited to see what comes next.”
A version of this story originally appeared in our December 2020-January 2021 issue.