A Gluten-Free Gourmet Finds a Culinary Haven in Rio

By Elise Vaux 

 Of all the luxuries of life I enjoy, my favorite combination is food and travel. A homegrown meat-and-potatoes Iowa girl, I love the thrill of dining like a local and expanding my culinary horizons. From gazpacho in Barcelona to freshly steamed crab in Deep River, Connecticut, the fear of the culinary unknown never trumped the potential satisfaction of discovering my next great foodie obsession.

A dietary obstacle revealed itself, however, when I was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 22. An intolerance to gluten, celiac disease can pose big challenges for any traveler in a foreign country facing a language barrier and unfamiliar cuisine.

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The sign of Rio’s Zaza restaurant. Photo Credit: Elise Vaux

Gluten is an elusive enzyme most commonly found in wheat flour but can hide in cream sauces, on the breading of fried fish, even in mashed potatoes or fries. In the mood for an Asian dish? Better check on a substitute for soy sauce, because gluten is hiding there, too. Gluten can be hard to avoid on home turf and in your first language, but is even tougher to avoid abroad.

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