A few weeks ago, I had my very first Brazilian churrascaria experience at Fogo de Chão in San Jose, California. Churrasco is a Spanish and Portuguese term for grilled meat or more commonly barbecue. Many Americans have come to know a churrascaria to be a Brazilian steakhouse. I have to admit, I was very wary at first since American BBQ isn’t always celiac-friendly, but I was interested in learning more about Fogo de Chão and their gluten-free offerings. I also would LOVE to go to Brazil one day, so for the time being this is how I will fulfill that Brazilian food fantasy!
Last week was the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I was never into soccer (known as football everywhere else) until I moved to Astoria, Queens. Astoria is probably one of the most diverse neighborhoods in all of New York City. This means there are World Cup fans from around the globe watching the games alongside of me. I get really caught up in the excitement of the games and try to see as many as I can during the tournament. New York City has some really amazing venues to watch the World Cup and I am spending the next month cheering on the teams and rooting for the world!
This year, the World Cup is in Brazil. While I have never been, Brazil is very high on my Gluten-Free Globetrotter bucket list! As with most places, I love doing research about eating gluten-free in that country. It looks like Brazil has a national Celiac organization with many small support groups across the country. Additional, there are labeling laws that have been in place since 2003
According to Brazil Law 10,674 of 16/05/2003, it “requires that all food products marketed to report on the presence of gluten, as prevention and control of celiac disease.” Brazil was TEN YEARS ahead of the United States in their gluten-free labeling laws! The law currently does not set the maximum PPM of gluten in a product. There is a group called PROTESTE that is working to set the maximum amount of gluten in “gluten-free” products at 10ppm or less. I am impressed by the country-wide support of such laws.
Remember, Brazilians speak Portuguese NOT Spanish. I recommend you bringing a Brazilian Portuguese translation card with you if you are traveling to Brazil.
Here are some Brazilian Celiac Associations and links that will give you more information about living as a Celiac and being gluten-free in Brazil.
Kathleen shared her amazing South American travels with us in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. In this final section, I share with you the communications Kathleen sends out prior to her travels. You will see from the letter that Kathleen’s restrictions go beyond avoiding gluten and she is thorough in her explanation. I also include where Kathleen had both good and bad gluten-free meals during her travels.
This is the basis of my communication when traveling where I am not familiar with those that prepare my food. Blanks and information can be filled in or deleted to suit your needs.
My husband and I are travelling with ABC Tour Ref: ——–
Tour Name: ———
We arrive in your hotel: ——–
Booking Ref: ——-
I have an illness called Coeliac (celiac) and must adhere to a strict GLUTEN FREE diet. I may become very ill if I eat foods containing flour or grains of Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats, malt or foods derived from anything made with or cross-contaminated with these ingredients.
Safe (or healthy) foods include, but are not limited to, potatoes, beans, rice, quinoa, maize, amaranth, almost all vegetables and fruits, as long as they are not blended with Wheat, Rye, Barley Oats or products derived from them. I must avoid acid foods such as Tomato, all Citrus Fruits, Peppermint, garlic, onions, caffeine, fried foods.
I am lactose intolerant and, with these conditions in mind, I try to adhere to a vegetarian, low cholesterol, low fat diet.
We will be guests in your hotel on the above dates. We appreciate you having some foods available which I can eat. More often it is the cross-contamination or preparation method (not avoiding wheat, rye, barley, oats, malt or their derivatives) rather than the menu which offers conflict.
A suitable selection at breakfast for example: gluten-free grain or bread such as a cereal and bread, soy milk, fruit. At Dinner: gluten-free bread, a potato, quinoa or rice dish, a variety of any (safely) grilled, pan-seared or lightly steamed vegetables with the exceptions of onions, tomatoes, garlic, with herbs if possible. Beans. No butter. I have never met a vegetable I don’t like. A soy/tofu, vegetables or bean dish is a perfect main course. Many salads, soups and desserts can be made safely for me before any wheat ingredients or seasonings are added.
I can manage some dairy prepared in foods I consume, like milk, cheese but the harder, the better. No added salt, please. We hope our advance notice helps you.
Thank you so very much for your efforts to accommodate my illness. Please reply to this email so we know we’ve reached you.
As you will see, Kathleen is thorough with her dietary requests yet polite. A little kindness goes a long way!
Here are some of the places Kathleen ate while in South America. To read Kathleen’s full reviews, please visit the GlutenFreeTravelSite.
El Viejo Almacen
Balcarce 799 C1064AAO, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina
Phone: +54 11 4307-7388 // 6698
Sheraton Libertador Hotel
Av. Cordoba 690, Capital Federal, CP 1054, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Contact: Enrique Ercigoj, Assistant Food & Beverage
Porto Canoas, Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls National Park
Iguassu Falls, Parana state, Brazil
Contact: Head chef Geraldo Alves de Souza
This guest post comes from my friend Kathleen. You can read more about Kathleen here. Kathleen does not let her gluten-free diet deter her from traveling the world. She does extensive and impressive research before each trip and she was excited to share her South American adventures with my readers. You can read part one of Kathleen’s South American adventures here.
In both Brazil and Argentina, labeling for packaged foods is fairly easy to see. They speak Portuguese in Brazil and Spanish in Argentina. English is fairly well understood in the more cosmopolitan areas though many spoke no English. I had no difficulties communicating wherever we went. When you make an effort to use the native language too, it seems to be appreciated. It might help you eat safely somewhere else. Many have heard about gluten because it is law in those countries. Industrialized foods and drinks are more regularly labeled “contains gluten” or “does not contain gluten” (translation: “CONTÉN GLÚTEN” or ““NÃO CONTÉN GLÚTEN”). Despite this, many people don’t know exactly what it means or how to deliver safe Gluten-Free. The translation of barley, oats, wheat and rye is ” malte”, “aveia”, “trigo” and “centeio” (from www.CeliacTravelSite.com). I had no problems in the markets shopping for Gluten-Free food. What goes on in a kitchen is another matter. Here are 2 links to help understand and manage better.
Argentina isn’t quite up to the same awareness as Brazil but these links should help. http://www.singluten.es/index.php?ArticleInfo&Process&1663 http://www.celiac.com/articles/229/1/Argentina/Page1.html
I always carry Celiac diet cards. Those are available from several sources and in many languages. They each may differ slightly. I make mine conform to my particular diet requirements. Here is one such link – Celiac Travel Cards: http://www.celiactravel.com/cards/ [Ed note: Here are more translation card resources]
As one who must avoid gluten always, in any form, I keep a vegetarian diet. The most unlikely foods during processing often are enhanced with, come in contact with or are derived from wheat, rye, barley or oats. Avoidance is the only cure for celiac. (I highlighted this for the tour company to understand dietary importance.)
These above Argentinian and Brazilian sites offer translations. These and others offer venues that might be accessible for traveling celiacs to eat safely and possibly better than what was offered during our recent South American tour. For future celiac guests, it would be beneficial if a few eateries from Rio and Buenos Aires nearby the destination hotels could be identified to inform your gluten sensitive guests. Tour people know better than travelers which places are nearer than others. Since diet is the only medical way to cope with Celiac Disease, this step would sufficiently enhance a celiac’s visit to your countries.
Many celiacs have dietary issues other than Celiac so a diet can be more restrictive than some with Celiac alone. Celiacs have to avoid Wheat, Rye, Barley and Oats but fully appreciate good flavor, like all other travelers. Food should be part of the travel fun.
These conditions do not have to confine Gluten-Free travels for several reasons. I contact hotels and tour companies well in advance and confirm at several points prior to arrival that they expect to serve a gluten intolerant guest. If tour companies would release hotel emails, this would greatly simplify this step as it is not easy frequently to find emails directly to the hotels. If I had the tour guide’s name and email, I would email them directly to assure they have my information in time to prepare, in a timely manner. This makes guides and the company all look good. Frequently tour companies say one thing yet do a bit differently in forwarding such health information to their guides in a timely manner.
Food choices were not nearly as generous for Gluten-Free compared to the goods for “regular” guests but I was cared for, other than too much sugar – which causes other problems. Meat-eaters have much more variety, as was the case throughout Brazil and Argentina. If dairy is tolerated, the selections expand nicely. There really is no reason celiacs cannot eat well other than a lower level of preparation in the kitchen or by the company. If places even provide a range of vegetables (not just salad) – grilled and/or seasoned – that would be appreciated. There are wonderful Gluten-Free pastas, bakeries and breads available in both Rio and Buenos Aires. I was not offered these alternatives where the tour went as a group in Brazil or Argentina, although Internet sites indicate they are available.
Rio and Buenos Aires appear to eat a great deal more meat and much less vegetables. As a non-meat-eater, U.S. vegetarian’s daily diet is much richer in fiber, vegetables and fruits than I found were available where we were scheduled to visit. Some Gluten-Free foods I experienced in these two countries were flavorless or they tended to be overcooked, cool or dry. A best first step would be for the tour company and travel guide to exchange vital information about a celiac traveler at least one week BEFORE the first tour meeting. This gives the venues better lead time than guest showing up expecting to have Gluten-Free. It is most frustrating for celiacs to have completed all forms, requirements and requests, only to find out that same information was not transmitted in time to have Gluten-Free food available after a long flight or at any point along the way. It is impractical for celiacs to pack a week of food in a suitcase. This is one alternative if communication cannot be timely.
Stay tuned for part 3 of Kathleen’s story including where she ate throughout South America. For a sneak peek, check out Kathleen’s South American restaurant reviews on GlutenFreeTravelSite.
This guest post comes from my friend Kathleen. You can read more about Kathleen here. Kathleen does not let her gluten-free diet deter her from traveling the world. She does extensive and impressive research before each trip and she was excited to share her South American adventures with my readers.
GLIMPSE OF SOUTH AMERICA to Rio de Janeiro, Iguassu Falls, and Buenos Aires
For our first trip to South America, we were concerned about a gluten-free diet. As one celiac traveler who is mostly vegetarian, we didn’t know fully what to expect about safe eating. We had not traveled South America or south of the Equator before. The trip lists as a 10-day trip. We had 8 full days on the ground in Brazil and Argentina with 2 legs intra-continental air travel, plus arrival and departure arrangements. I’ll not address getting there and coming home to the US (many have their own routines for flights and familiar territories) but I’ll focus on eating Gluten-Free while IN South America.
We had a fabulous, conscientious tour guide, Rodrigo Winterstein, representing Trafalgar Tours with us. We traveled with a tour company and they select your guide. We like this way to introduce a new area to us; we don’t have to drive, map out what we’re doing each day, and most everything is done for us. We are free to watch and fully experience the sights to not miss a thing. We do our homework upfront, before getting there.
We could not have been happier with Rodrigo Winterstein. He escorted us throughout our South American visit, along with 36 other travelers. There is a nice safety element when traveling with a group as well as head of line privileges and door-to-door visits most often. Rodrigo is a professional guide (also for hire) who lives in Rio de Janeiro, who speaks 5 languages I think he said and who excels in his chosen field. His attention to all manner of details was first-class as he introduced us to various places and optimized our visit around Rio (just Rio to locals), Iguassu Falls, and Buenos Aires. He reinforced my celiac diet requirements by giving advance notice to food managers for my meals included with the tour. How considerate, knowing contact had been made ahead of time and the visited eateries expected a Gluten-Free guest and understood the demands of such a diet. This made travel easier as I could focus on what I wanted to eat mainly instead of having to begin at Point 1 with questioning whether they understood Gluten-Free and its preparation. You’re right; no Gluten-Free person entirely lets down their guard as it is our responsibility to guard as best as possible against eating the wrong things. That’s why I establish contact before travels, reinforce before departure and use travel cards with managers, waiters and servers. Sincere thank yous with feedback are just as important.
Rodrigo was most attentive to the Gluten-Free diet but what else impressed us is that he fully grasped the idea of cross-contamination immediately. Many, when explaining Gluten-Free eating, might “get” the idea of ingredients of safe food content but do not register that preparation and serving surfaces, implements, etc. must not touch gluten as well. His preparation was based on my emails, forms, health requirements and conversations shared with the tour company and booking company when we booked our trip, as well as a short paper I handed him his own copy to keep when we first discussed my Gluten-Free diet. This makes it easier if [your] guide has what you want and need in one short form. (One such standard I use is shown at the end.) Rodrigo was impressed how easy it is to miss the mark with Celiac. He said repeatedly how much he had learned by traveling with us. He gave great consideration to this and came up with the term “life risk” as a warning to describe how important proper food preparation is, in addition to ingredients.
Will I find safe eating easy, what else need I do, I wondered before our journey. The Internet is a great resource with a caution to note the date. Things change. I did my online research and came prepared by having several copies of modified restaurant or travel cards – one for the guide, a few for the place we’re eating at the time and several for me in case mine get messy or lost. Plus, I needed Spanish and Portuguese for where we traveled.
Rodrigo asked if I would share my contacts and information regarding CELIAC/COELIAC assistance. Thus began a plan to help tour companies and Gluten-Freers accommodate a safe Gluten-Free diet while traveling. I do hope this helps others with any special diet needs. Again, Rodrigo, thank you for helping us navigate Brazil and Argentina safely GLUTEN-FREE during our Glimpse of South America tour with Trafalgar Tours.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Kathleen’s story including her pre-travel communications to her tour company. For a sneak peek, check out Kathleen’s South American restaurant reviews onGlutenFreeTravelSite.