As much as I am German, I am a Turk and to be precise, a Turk from Trabzon in the northwestern Black Sea region. As rich as its kitchen, my father would always jokingly say that it consisted of green beans, collard (a type of cabbage) and corn. In essence, he’s right so I’d like to share with you the corn part of this cuisine.

1. Cornmeal

When the hills are as steep as in the Black Sea, it makes sense to forgo traditional wheat flour and go with calorie-dense cornmeal to make your bread or other baked goods. So why does this gluten-free flour (coarsely ground corn kernels) deserve a dedicated spot in Turkish cuisine? Because there are two kinds, roasted and unroasted. Many in Turkey are not even aware of this fact, the foremost reason why you’ll see people from the Black Sea bring unroasted cornmeal by the handfuls to the cities they are migrating to. Whenever I meet up with family, I am inevitably asked at least once if I have any left.

2. Black Sea style cornbread

When I think of cornbread, I immediately remember the distinctive and intense smell, the golden color and how great it tastes once it is out of the oven, especially with a bit of salted butter. The great thing about using cornmeal or cornflour is that it is a gluten-free alternative to your usual bread made out of wheat. However, you need to be aware that cornbread is more on the drier side. So choose carefully what you pair with this bread and make sure you cut it into thin slices.

3. Kuymak

Now you might wonder what this is. Many often think that mıhlama, another Black Sea staple, and kuymak are basically the same thing, especially considering that both are depicted as a cheesy porridge that stretches to oblivion. However, they are actually two separate dishes, and kuymak is a dish native to Trabzon while mıhlama is local to Rize. Here are two important points to make about kuymak: you need to use unroasted cornmeal to create this dish; otherwise it won’t thicken right and will taste off, and you’ll need a dry, strong and salty cheese, specifically “kuymak” cheese made by the locals.