Rebels With a Cause

Illustration by Chris Hall

Entrepreneurial middle schoolers evolve
into focused jerky makers

1998. Downingtown Middle School Cafeteria. Fifth period lunch. I had just finished my brown-bagged salami, mustard and Cooler Ranch Doritos sandwich, and scrounged through my backpack for the $5 bill my mom gave me each morning for drinks and snacks. I got the same thing everyday: strawberry kiwi lemonade ($1.49), a giant chocolate chip cookie ($1), and a Taco Bell soft taco ($1.50). Yes, our cafeteria actually served Taco Bell, an inconceivable travesty by current childhood nutrition standards, and heaven on earth to a 12-year-old. It was that golden era of flavor, when adulterated concerns like “health” and “natural ingredients” never got in the way of unalloyed indulgence.

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