Mackerels: j’leur ai fait leur fête

mackerel whole cooked fish

Whole Mackerels

There are words that simply get lost in translation.

Really, they do.

Take the French expression “J’leur ai fait leur fête” for example. Of course, if I kept to a word-to-word translation, it would mean, I made a feast to them (them being the fish). But in fact, the meaning is not this at all. The expression actually means I found a destiny for my fish: I cooked them, but in an ironical way.

And even this translation sounds awkward and unsatisfactory.

C’m on! Any French person or expert to help me with a better way to say this?

In any case, I did indeed manage to find a destiny to my two lovely mackerels. I must say, I really found them elegant and beautiful with their shining blueish gray color.

They tasted heavenly too, baked quite simply in a large papillote cooked in the oven, with olive oil, lemon slices and juice, thyme, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Of course, mackerels are excellent grilled too, since they are an oily fish.

In fact, they fascinated me so much that the next thing I did was to go and buy more the next day, this time to prepare a type of rollmops — rollmops are actually made with herrings. It was my first time.

And they are still marinating in the fridge.

mackerel cooked baked whole

J’suis cuit !

Posted in Fish, French Inspired, Gluten Free


  1. All this fish you are cooking… it looks so fresh and succulent! As always impecable!

  2. can’t help you with the french idiom, but i can tell you that the photo is gorgeous with the blue. oh yeah, and i love mackerel so it also looks delish!

  3. Mmmmm… I love mackerels. I grew up on this fish. As you mentioned, they’re quite oily fish, and they’re naturally salty so My mom would simply cut them up into 3 inch pieces, including the head, and pop them in the oven with no oil, no salt, nothing. I loved them with just a simple bowl of steaming white rice. Oof. I’m now craving these dearly.

  4. Ah … fresh mackerel. Many moons ago, when I lived with my parents, we used to eat mackerel with a spinach stew (like a spinach gravy … I can’t figure it out right now) and a slice of lemon. I was fantastic.

  5. Oh! Mackarel is one of my favourite fish! We usually cook them in a large pot in a Korean style, but I should try in a papillote – why it never crossed my mind to do so, I don’t know!

  6. Simply delicious… I love mackerels for their strong taste and the way they look, backing them as you did is a really nice way… I’d love some too right now… 😉

  7. Wow, those pictures are mindblowingly beautiful! I really love the harmonious choice of colors and the way those fishes are presented!

    A yummy dish! Such expressions are not easy to translate/don’t really translate well…



  8. YES!!! Those look fantastic. In portuguese we would say “eu os detonei” or I detonated (devoured) them!!

  9. Never done mackerels in papillotte. Maybe because it was this fish only we were going fishing when on holidays in the south of France suring summer and so it always ended on the bbq.
    We were trying “to make the best out of them, they (the mackerel) could not beleive their eyes.” still sounds strange for a translation…

  10. Qu’est-ce que c’est beau un maquereau quand meme, impeccablement profile, l’eil presque vif 🙂 Superbe!

  11. Bea, I’m sure you’ve heard this many times but your food photography and styling is absolutely immaculate. Colours, textures and even flavours just leap out the page…awesome work xoxo

  12. hey bea!

    Awww, shucks! I do hope you’re able to find some time to make something for SHF!! :o)

  13. Holy Mackerel, incredible Mackerels! That sure doesn’t do it.
    I think your photo’s come as close as anything short of popping the mackerel in my mouth!

  14. ALors la, tu m’en colle une ….I draw a blank on the idiom. Il n’y a rien de meilleur que le maquereau frais..ou les anchoic frais!

  15. Hi Bea, I am admiring your art work. Every pictures are made with special design and though. I never been able until now taking a picture of fish as beautiful as yours.
    Just want to stop by today and drop couples of lines – have a great weekend.

  16. Give up, Bea, some phrases truly do get lost in transaltion. Incidentally you “find a destiny for” something, not “a destiny to”. The props and background papers for your photos are superbly chosen and the overall look irresistibly fresh. Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. Pingback: Dessert For One, or More — Dessert pour un, ou plusieurs by La Tartine Gourmande

  18. The phrase reminds me of a similar English one… when you invite people over for dinner, you sometimes say that you are “having them for dinner”, meaning you are having them OVER for dinner, like “We’re having Jane and John for dinner”. So it’s often made into a joke when discussing what you’re eating… for example, when looking at the lobsters in a tank, “Oh, don’t you look nice, we’re having a dinner party and we’d love to have you!”. Not the same, but similar.

  19. Discovered your site via an aficionado in Long Beach C.A. Love Mackerel, Close my eyes and I feel the meat, Smell and acquired taste. I will visit more often. Great work and appreciations from another French Man !

  20. When was the last time a photo of a fish made someone cry? Seriously: the mackerel (which I’m crazy about) were so beautiful and plump, and that robins-egg background is my favorite color, and between the two, I got a little misty-eyed.