We're trying to make veganism less like self-flagellation," Chad Miller says. "We stock 'fun' food. If happens to be healthy too--so be it."
Welcome to Portland's first vegan grocery, Food Fight!, where junk food meets activism halfway.
Miller and his business/love partner Emiko Badillo worked as graphic designers--the name of their firm is Fourteen Little Men--but found they were spending their spare time searching grocery store aisles, looking for cruelty-free food. More particularly, vegan junk food.
That seemingly endless quest led the couple to open their own convenience store, Food Fight! (4179 SE Division St., 233-3910).
Just opened this month, the store is located in a concrete bunker near the Kalga Kafe on Southeast Division Street. Inside, it radiates a Jolt cola-like energy: cheeky self-help posters scream from the walls as handwritten advertorials lead customers to owner picks like Kubus--glass bottles of carrot, apple and raspberry-flavored kid's juices from Poland.
Miller and Badillo turned to veganism six years ago, driven by their political beliefs about animal rights and the environment.
"It's not like we gave up certain [foods] because we didn't like the taste," says Miller, a Louisiana native. "We just didn't want to kill anything for them."
Shelves filled with junk food is what sets Food Fight! apart from other health-food stores in town. Miller and Badillo stock vegan Cheetos (Tings), gelatin-free Skittles and Starbursts, as well as imported fake crab and ham tubes.
The store also serves as a no-shipping-cost outpost for NYC's Moo Shoes leather-free footwear, and it sells vegan condoms (Condomi). It seems regular raincoats aren't 100 percent moo-friendly either.
So just how does the idea of vegan junk food translate to the home kitchen? The happy store owners were nice enough to share the recipe for a greasy favorite:
Long John Silver Tofu
*3 cups "cheap" vegetable oil
*1 16-ounce package firm tofu (such as local make Dae-Han's)
*1 box Golden Dipt English-style Fish and Chips batter
*Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
Fill Presto Fry Daddy or large pot with oil. While it's heating, cut tofu into cubes or strips. Mix batter according to package directions, adding lots of Creole seasoning for extra kick. Dip tofu in batter and toss into fryer. Let fry until golden brown, about three minutes. Blot "fish" with a paper towel and voilà--you've got yourself some spork-worthy tofu. The couple recommends pairing the entrée with a Blue Sky Cherry Vanilla Cream Soda and following it with a bowl of Soy Delicious Turtle Tracks (caramel, chocolate and praline soy ice cream).
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After a seven-year run, Hogan's Goat Pizza is closing, another casualty of rising prices in the chi-chi Pearl District, according to owner John Burrows. But first he's throwing a closing party, starting at 11 am on Sept. 19. Drop by to pay your respects (520 NW 12th Ave. 228-2466) and to savor a last slice--for just a buck.