We were invited to lunch by near and dear Italian friends. A treat was in store; the husband had made his own pesto. We nibbled on the aperitivi and chatted about this and that. Their daughter appeared. The water for the pasta was boiling. In a scene repeated millions of times a day throughout Italy, the husband asked ‘Buto la pasta?’ (Shall I start cooking the pasta?) ‘Si!’ we all cried, and off he went to the kitchen. A few seconds later he re-appeared, holding two half-empty boxes and with a thunder-struck look on his face. ‘There is no pasta!’ he cried. ‘Impossible!’ said his wife. The two searched high and low but it was true; they had run out of pasta. So unthinkable was this that neither had thought it a possibility! They improvised, by the way, and the pesto was delicious.