I guess we all are aware of the food and service provided by F.R.I.E.N.D.S Café in Johar Town, Lahore. It has been heartbreakingly disappointing since its opening. But I admit that it was the orange couch that made me visit that place again and again. My recent visit was on the 23rd of this month. My friend and I enjoyed our glasses of gas-less coke, became a little nostalgic about the TV show, and envisioned Monica being the head-chef of this café too who would not only have taken care of the food’s quality and taste but would have also kept a check on its cleanliness.

Two days ago, within a week after my last visit, I saw a post on a Facebook page about the café getting sealed owing to extremely unhygienic conditions in the kitchen and use of expired foodstuff. Only one question struck my mind upon reading this, and that was:

“Smelly cat, Smelly cat, What are they feeding you?”

What they feed us and how they feed us is the aspect of the story which is dealt with by sealing and fining the cafés; but why they do is something which must be understood to nip the evil in the bud. This initiative of Punjab Food Authority is undoubtedly highly commendable as we are informed about the dirty eateries of our city, but now we should actually take a step forward and look into the reasons behind such misconducts. An authority must take the responsibility of training the restaurant owners and workers and teaching them about sanitary values and hygiene. They know how to wear gloves but they must be taught not to scratch their neck and scalp with their gloves on. They know how to cover their heads with hoods but they must be trained to keep the head coverings on their heads while working in the kitchen so that hairs do not become a common discovery from our servings. They know soaps are made to be used but they must be trained to use them often and especially after answering the call of nature.

There is a need to understand the psyche of restaurant owners, both of a five-star eatery and a khokha proprietor, of what makes them pick up rotten vegetables and spoiled meat from the market. What makes them sell foods prepared out of putrefied ingredients that are absolutely unsuitable for consumption? What makes them trade our money with such a decaying pile of rubbish that they serve as a dish in a platter? When the consumers are ready to pay in triple digits for a meal that did not even cost a half of its selling price to the owner then why can they not serve food which could be called by this name, i.e. something which provides nourishment?

Opening themed cafés and restaurants is a good business strategy, but in order to make it a million-dollar deal the owners will have to invest their money as well as energy for its quality assurance and cleanliness. Putting up pictures of Chandler, Joey and others in a hall surely does please the fans of Friends, but these frames and orange couch cannot hide the filth we are being sold. I think this is the right venue for Phoebe to sing Smelly Cat because we really do not know what they are feeding us!