Buford’s writing is assured and voluptuous, well up to the task of suggesting the fierce magnificence of a trembling blood sausage or the subtler charms of a quenelle de brochet – though there’s a mixture of twinkliness and fastidiousness about the cultivated American bon vivant that sits oddly with all the macho stuff. It also tends to jar on the cisatlantic ear. If you’re an Old Worldster and you write about food at all, you’ll probably have found yourself scrabbling desperately round the nether reaches of the word hoard for a synonym for ‘delicious’, but if you happened upon ‘scrumptious’, I would like to think you’d put it straight back again. At times, reading Dirt is like going out for dinner – a pretty good dinner, admittedly – with the love child of Ned Flanders and Dr Frasier Crane. Buford takes a swipe at the ‘self-consciously I-am-literary prose’ of M F K Fisher, but given that he once published Angela Carter in Granta, I wondered if he’d read her frankly magnificent London Review of Books review of, inter alia, Patience Gray’s Honey from a Weed, in which Carter ever so courteously eviscerates a certain cohort of food writers, generally patrician and female, who go and live among stout, mustachioed peasant widows somewhere poor and hot, the better to imbibe the secrets of their austerely magnificent lives.