Gangamma Kashiappa Benagi, an octogenarian vegetable vendor from Dharwad, had more creases on her face than the currency notes she handled every day. She sat singing in her kitchen, her arm rotating over an imaginary grindstone. She confided that it was an old habit. The tune, typically sung while grinding grain, recalls a rich oral tradition where everyday chores are celebrated through song. Over the next few hours, Gangamma shared with us recipes and secrets she had learnt from her mother Lingamma who started the vegetable shop in 1905.
We were a couple of writers accompanied by two chefs and a video crew driving through Karnataka, cooking and sampling local delicacies as part of a food research project for a restaurant. While we stuffed our faces all day, Gangamma vended vegetables, tilled her field, and changed two buses to meet us and rustle up a great vegetarian spread. She even slapped out 18-inch jolada ( jowar or sorghum) rotis by hand. This was Shravana-month cuisine, she explained, using native vegetables available in the monsoon.
On offer were jowari doddmensinkayi palya (stuffed country capsicum curry), so pungent it had t