At times Willan runs her knife a little too rigorously over these biographies, levelling them off too abruptly. It feels as if there is more that could be said about Rundell and her “era of gravy”, or Edna Lewis, the author of the Southern food touchstone The Taste of Country Cooking. The granddaughter of slaves, she pioneered seasonal food writing and cooked for Gore Vidal, Greta Garbo and Truman Capote. Willan also skims over the way today’s home cooks happily roam through the global pantry seeking dinner. She dedicates a chapter to Marcella Hazan — who, like the French cooking maven Julia Child — she knew personally. An Italian immigrant with a biology PhD, Hazan was appalled by America’s treatment of her homeland’s food when she arrived in New York in 1955. “Never, never break spaghetti in two!” she wrote, tangibly shuddering. A sidebar about “diversity” that mentions the Chinese chef Joyce Chen and the early black cookery writer Abby Fisher — the author of What Mrs Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking in 1881 — isn’t enough.