Vegetarian Action

Chef Ariel Bangs

By Julia Mathew

After consistently becoming ill, Ariel Bangs decided to eliminate meat from her diet. The transition was relatively easy for her due to the abundance of fresh foods available in Seattle, Washington, as well as her cultural upbringing. "I am from an Italian, East Indian, and African American family where culture, healthy eating, herbalism, and natural health is our way of life," says Ariel. She also added that her passion for gardening has influenced her view of food as a whole. "Gardening is life, it is our connection to the Earth and to the universe; it is our job as humans to own this responsibility and to give as we receive." Although Ariel had initially planned to cut meat out from her diet only temporarily, the transition resulted in her discovery and adoption of a vegan lifestyle.

She later attended The Art Institute of Seattle, where she challenged herself to produce delicious vegan and gluten-free dishes despite her instructors' caution. She used this knowledge to help start her vegan catering business, Healthy Creations, which focuses on Caribbean, Cuban, and Venezuelan cuisines. Ariel focuses a lot on culture as a means of bringing people together and believes that 'veganizing' these cuisines is quite simple, as "Almost all countries began anciently as vegan, because you grew your food and shared with the community." She undertook research about ancient communities and learned a lot from speaking with elders to further understand the history of their respective food cultures. "Everyone is from a culture, loves some form of culture, and everyone loves to eat," says Ariel.

Ariel says that she "didn't intend to open a business; I wanted to help people who were afraid to eat due to their food illnesses and allergies." It was also out of this motive that Ariel created FLAVORGASMS, her vegan and gluten-free donut company. The donuts are made from a variety of bean, grain, and seed flours. When asked about the trial and error involved behind creating such wholesome donuts, Ariel responded, "It is always food science when you are focusing on alternative ingredients, which for me is fun because I am a natural experimenter." She is currently working on opening her own vegan bakery in Seattle.

When asked about tips for parents to get their children to shift towards a vegan diet, Ariel says, "Make eating a fun experience. Involve them in growing, harvesting, washing, and preparing meals. Eat what you want them to eat."

She emphasizes the importance of teaching children, as well as adults, about a vegan, predominantly whole-foods diet, rather than a diet high in processed foods. Ariel offers online classes and 'Spring Up 30', a healthy vegan meal plan which she says "compiles a group of people looking to transition into healthier eating, who need guidance and recipes as they take their journey."

Ultimately, Ariel believes that "Overall, what entices customers are wonderful products that are wholesome, taste great, have respect for the culture and the food as a whole (whether you grow it, buy it or it is given to you), and are beautiful. We eat with our eyes, nose, and ears before anything goes into our mouths."

Julia Mathew interned with The Vegetarian Resource Group during her final semester at Loyola University Maryland.