James May Covered His Face While Eating on 'The Grand Tour: Carnage a Trois' Because of This Tradition

While indulging in some local traditions on 'The Grand Tour: Carnage a Trois,' James May inexplicably covered his face. Why did he do that?

Chris Barilla - Author

Jan. 10 2022, Published 2:23 p.m. ET

James May
Source: Getty Images

If there's one thing that The Grand Tour hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond know how to do well besides burning rubber, it's educating their viewers on little-known facts about whatever subject matter they're discussing. That came especially into play during one of the show's most recent specials, titled Carnage a Trois.

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Focusing on France's contribution to automotive history, as well as dabbling in some general traditions of the region overall, the special is a tasteful take on all things French and French cars. However, at one point in the show, James inexplicably covers his face while eating, which has made many viewers question why he would do such a thing. So, why did James actually cover his face? Is there any real reasoning for it? Here's a breakdown of his decision and what we know about it.

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Why did James May cover his face during the recent 'The Grand Tour' special?

As the three lovable automotive enthusiasts talk about all things France in their Carnage a Trois special, they naturally grow hungry, When they stop for a meal, however, James does something that likely struck a good majority of the show's fans as odd: covering his entire face with a large white napkin while he ate.

If you've seen the special, you might've also been sitting there asking yourself why the star, who also hosts Our Man in Japan, did this while eating his meal. Well, the joke is on all of us, as James was simply behaving within cultural traditions for consuming the type of dish that he was.

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The host was actually eating ortolan bunting, a small bird that is now illegal to be served in many countries, including France, because of the cruel preparation and consumption methods utilized for it. When the ortolan is young, it is caged in the dark and tricked to eat an excessive amount of foods such as figs. Once they're fattened up to roughly double their original size, the ortolan is quite literally drowned in Armagnac brandy. It is then plucked and roasted for eight minutes.

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When it gets to the table, the eating process is pretty much just as cruel. Per Wikipedia, "The consumer then places the bird feet first into their mouth while holding onto the bird's head. The Ortolan is then eaten whole, with or without the head, and the consumer spits out the larger bones."

It being illegal to cook and consume in France currently aside, the tradition within the country for eating it aligns with its rather shameful preparation methods. French food connoisseurs typically cover their entire head and face in a cloth napkin while eating the bird as a way to cover up the shame of cooking it in such a cruel way.

Beyond shamefulness, the cloth napkin also helps trap in the scent of the meal, which is described as one of the most aromatic on Earth.

With all of that being said, it's clear why James decided to cover his head with a napkin while enjoying the ortolan.

For more of Jeremy, James, and Richard's wild escapades, be sure to check out The Grand Tour, streaming on Amazon Prime Video now.

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