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Beware The Grill Interloper Who's Eyeing Your Tongs


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish. All summer we're celebrating one of the season's most popular pastimes, grilling. We've asked our reporters around the world to tell us about the traditions of grilling where they are. Today, we hear from Philip Reeves, who works out of London. He sent us a dispatch about the strange affect barbeque seems to have on some men.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: You spot him the moment he walks into the yard. You're cooking your burgers on the grill. Your guests are relaxed. The music's on. Everything would be going just fine were it not for the arrival of the interloper. He starts circling. It's as if he's drawn to your grill by the primal tug of meat and fire. You see him from the corner of your eye.

The interloper is scrutinizing your sausages. He inches nearer, trying to look innocent. You're busy. You don't want a conversation, but the interloper starts asking questions. How long have those burgers been on? When did you last flip them? The interloper is clever, you see. He can smell your lack of confidence. Every cook eventually has to desert the grill for a minute or two.

You need something from the kitchen. The guests are demanding more beer. That's what the interloper is waiting for. That's when he can launch his coup. You return and there he is. The interloper is standing behind your grill. He has your fork. You've become a guest at your own party. The interloper starts lining up your sausages on your grill.

He divides them into platoons. There are the almost-ready, the intermediates and the freshmen. He does the same with the shrimp, the burgers and the chicken kabobs. Through the smoke, you watch his silhouette hunched possessively over the coals. He's the decider. Woe betide anyone who tries to fork a sausage before he says so.

Am I the only host who's ousted from his own grill? Does it happen in other places, too? I was in Pakistan a few weeks back. The Pakistanis love grilling. Do they have interlopers there? At a roadside restaurant outside the city of Islamabad, the chakri kabobs are cooking nicely. These are flat, round, spicy meat cakes containing minced beef and egg and chili.

Hasan Khan(ph), an architecture student, is here for some dinner. I ask him whether there are any interlopers at parties here. He says there are.

HASAN KHAN: In our gathering, when we cook barbeque, it happens to us.

REEVES: It's always a guy, isn't it?

KHAN: Yeah, it's always a guy. I think it's human nature.

REEVES: I mean, I find it a bit rude when people do that.

KHAN: No, it's normal over here. They don't find it rude. We just let them in.

REEVES: Khan also has another theory. Pakistan's a male-dominated society. Women generally do the cooking. He says in his social circles, a barbeque is one of the rare occasions you see a man sweating over a grill.

KHAN: Not all the time they get to cook, so when they get to cook the food then this happens, everyone interferes with each other. But men...

REEVES: They think this is their one opportunity.

KHAN: Yeah, they only get one opportunity, everyone likes to take over.

REEVES: But women never come and try to take over.

KHAN: No, they don't.

REEVES: Why would that be?

KHAN: Because they just want a day off.

REEVES: That settles it. The interloper is a global figure. No matter where you are on the map, no sausage is safe from his predatory fork. All I can say is, gentlemen, you know who you are. Philip Reeves, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.