Eating Abroad with Food Restrictions

Elsie Zuch and Emma Freedman
It can be difficult to find food to eat abroad when you have an allergy or dietary restriction. But fear not, vegetarians and gluten-free eaters: we’re here to help!

Gluten-free in Paris

Some countries are better than others about gluten-free options. Unfortunately for me, the French were relatively unaware of celiac and gluten allergies, while Italians were surprisingly on top of it with gluten-free pasta galore. Even as someone who must eat gluten-free in a city like Paris—where baguettes are an accessory—there are always options. I used blogs as a resource to find restaurants and bakeries that supported my allergy. These small business owners were very friendly and gave me a lot of needed advice on gluten–free eating in such a gluten-obsessed city.
I also lived a few hundred feet from a new gluten-free sandwich shop called Bears and Raccoons. The owners were a young couple just out of university, more than willing to speak with me. Eventually I became a regular there; they knew my name and I knew theirs. It was a space where I could relax, study, and make some local friends.
While eating “sans gluten” in a country known for their bread and baked goods seems daunting, I saw my allergy as an opportunity to find a community and explore Paris in search of the perfect “Cannelé.”

Meat-free in Buenos Aires

“What do you mean you are going to study in Buenos Aires and you don’t eat steak?!” I heard this question a million times before studying abroad, as well as while I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a country known for its beef. But being a vegetarian in a country known for its meat consumption proved not to be such a challenge or cultural loss for me after all.
People often say the best way to understand or immerse yourself in a culture is through the food. So luckily for those with dietary restrictions, these days it is becoming more and more common to find alternatives to traditional food. In Argentina, the vegetarian and vegan movement has gained so much traction that specialized restaurants offer typical Argentine meats in a meatless version. So don’t miss out on the cultural opportunity to go to a steakhouse with your friends, even if you are only going to have soup or a salad.
Eating with vegetarian restrictions should not be the reason that you don’t partake in going out to eat with friends or going to a local food festival. You’ll be surprised to find that if you do your research and ask locals, it will be very easy to find a vegetarian “bondiola” or a gluten-free “alfajor.” So start your eating adventure!
Elsie Zuch graduated from Pitt in 2016 with a major in English, a minor in French, and a certificate in Children’s Literature. She spent Spring 2015 studying abroad with CIEE in Paris, France. Emma Freedman is also a Class of 2016 graduate, with a degree in Urban Studies and certificates in Latin American studies and Global Studies. She studied abroad Buenos Aires with ISA in Spring 2014 and again with SIT in Spring 2015. Elsie and Emma both interned at the Study Abroad Office in Spring 2016.
This article originally appeared in The Traveling Times, an online Pitt SAO newsletter.