BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — In the city of Bakersfield, one can find a handful of Basque restaurants and delicacies.
One Basque delicacy: tongue. And one Bakersfield delicacy: pickled tongue.
“It was never a Basque recipe [pickled tongue], ’cause in the Basque countries, they eat tongue it’s usually warm and in like a stew,” Jenny Maitia-Poncetta, co-owner of Wool Growers, said.
Although Maitia-Poncetta is not a fan of the stew, she finds the pickled tongue with the salad “very fresh and very delicious.”
Old Town Kern has several European restaurants and a long history of Italians and Basques working together. Italians introduced the Basques to pickled tongue and local Basque restaurants adopted it because many people enjoyed it, Maitia-Poncetta’s mom would tell her.
At Wool Growers, connoisseurs and novices can find two types of pickled tongue dishes: for lunch, there is the pickled tongue sandwich. For dinner, pickled tongue is served as a side with the main course.
Wool Growers serves their pickled tongue cold, sliced thin, with a vinaigrette and finely chopped parsley and garlic over it, Maitia-Poncetta said.
She said pickled tongue is specific to Bakersfield because any other Basque restaurant outside of the city would not have it.
The Basque region includes parts of France and Spain that are off the coast of the Bay of Biscay and the Western Foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, according to the Britannica. It is governed by Spain and France but the Basque are their own nationality who have their own government in the Basque country, Maitia-Poncetta said, who has family on both the French and Spanish side.
Last year, residents of Bakersfield’s large Basque community voiced concerns of the Basque immigrant generation passing away and of how the traditions would continue. That same year, Mayie Maitia, the founder of Wool Growers, died.
“I think it [Basque traditions and culture] actually became even more important for me… Just trying to keep her [Mayie Maitia] dream alive and it was so important to her. I mean she was so proud of being an American,” Maita-Poncetta said.
Maita-Poncetta said her mother’s Basque background was very strong and she always considered the Basque country her home.
You can find pickled tongue at one of Bakersfield many Basque restaurants including Wool Growers, Noriega’s, Pyrenees, Benji’s French Basque Restaurant and Chalet Basque Restaurant.