By Nira Dayanim
From starting an exercise regimen to becoming a sourdough aficionado, people have been managing life during the pandemic in different ways. Mother-daughter duo, Rachel and Leah Packer, have turned a sour situation sweet by starting “Because I Said So,” a Youtube cooking channel that caters to college students.
Because she’s immunocompromised, Leah Packer, a sophomore theater and communications major at this university, decided to stay home for the semester to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. As a result of this less-than-ideal situation, the idea of starting a cooking show took root.
“When quarantine started, I realized I had absolutely no idea how to make anything,” Leah said. “My mom made every dinner, every dessert, and I was like: ‘Can you teach me?’”
“Because I Said So,” which airs a video every Friday, is the method the duo is using to teach Leah, and other culinarily clueless college students, to fend for themselves as they navigate living independently.
It’s a team effort. As a health coach, Rachel takes the lead on food science and prep. Leah uses the skills she’s acquired throughout college to tackle marketing and video editing.
“We realized we had an opportunity to give people a sense of home, a little bit of humor, to make them feel like it’s not such a dire situation, while also making them feel like they can take care of themselves and become independent,” said Rachel.
“Because I Said So” certainly achieves its goal. Whether they’re braving kitchen mishaps together, or ranting about the health benefits of flax, Rachel and Leah’s engaging wit and banter bring viewers into the kitchen with them.
Adam Levine, a friend of Leah’s and a fan of the show, has been trying out some recipes with his roommates during his gap year.
“They are very good at explaining what to do,” said Levine. “We tried the fried rice recipe, and it turned out really well.”
Coming from a kosher and egg, peanut, dairy and tree-nut free home, Leah and Rachel are familiar with cooking with limitations. As such, they are passionate about creating inclusive but delicious recipes.
“We know what it’s like to not be able to eat because of a food allergy. We want to make sure that there’s something everyone can make and eat,” said Leah.
They also want to shatter the stigma that surrounds allergy-friendly foods.
“People often look at dairy-free and gluten-free food as tasteless,” said Rachel. “We want to show people that you can make things that are really delicious and nourishing and just because you don’t use certain ingredients doesn’t mean it’s not good.”
“Because I Said So” has been served as both a creative outlet and use of pandemic-induced free time for Leah and Rachel. It has also given the mother-daughter duo the priceless opportunity to strengthen their relationship.
“It used to always be that I was cooking for Leah. She was the kid, I was the mom, and our relationship was me taking care of her,” said Rachel. “Now, she has this whole new independence and we’re doing it together and that’s really special to me.