You Say Tomato: A Very British Grocery

You Say Tomato

There's more to urban hunting and gathering than visiting one's local supermarket. Grocery shopping need not be limited to the likes of Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's. They're just so... corporate, and this shopper is a bit bored with the over-marketing of, well, markets. Small, individually-owned stores might not provide their customers with all their shopping needs, but they do offer something that the Big Boys cannot -- individuality.

One such store exists in my Polk Street neighborhood -- You Say Tomato. It's British-owned and operated, by one David Kidd, originally from Stoke-on-Trent. If you're unfamiliar with the name of that town, think again. Yes, the china with the Christmas trees on it -- Spode. Very good. I'm proud of you for remembering. I hope dredging up those holiday memories wasn't too painful for you.

God Save the Queen

Currently, a flexible-jointed punked-out doll greets passers-by from the front window with a gesture that is considered rather obscene in Britain, which might indicate that this is no typical tea-and-crumpets venue. No, it isn't typical, but, well, there are the crumpets in the cold case to the left, and the tea sits proudly on the shelves near the back. Sensible Anarchists agree that one cannot undermine authority on an empty stomach.


Duffy Crumpets

I think it can be agreed that most Americans do, in fact, say "tomato" with the rough pronunciation of toh-may-toh when referencing Solanum lycopersicum. Though I am indeed one of them, I often find my inner voice pronouncing it toh-mah-toh like an Englishman, because I'm just that way and I have a rich, satisfying inner life.

There is evidence, however, that the English do not pronounce "potato" poh-tah-toh:

Tayto Crisps

Mmm...prawn cocktail.

Though I am an Anglophile and have been since childhood-- memorizing the Monty Python jokes I didn't fully understand, and aping the signature hiss of Terry-Thomas , one need not necessarily be like me to enjoy this shop. Two minutes of browsing will make clear the refreshing British distaste for focus groups and gender-sensitive marketing:

Yorkie Bars

(The above Yorkie Bar from Nestlé provoked a train of conversation with David Kidd that led him to pull up their UK adverts on YouTube. Much time was happily wasted by me upon my return home.)

Besides, browsing here is fun, largely because everything just sounds dirty, but isn't: Crumpets, Country Ploughman's Pickle, Ginger Nuts, Chicken & Mushroom Pasties, and my favorite:


How I love the British.

Beyond fun packaging, You Say Tomato is an excellent source for things like Devonshire cream, kippers, tea, jam, sweets, and just about any British foodstuff one could wish for. Don't smirk. There's something here for everyone:

vegetarian haggis

Give a metaphorical "V" sign to the big chain stores once in a while and stop by for a visit-- it's definitely worth it. It's a great resource for stocking one's larder with tasty conversation pieces.

Now, for those of you who don't understand the store's name, shame on you. It's an homage to one of George Gershwin's most playful tunes, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off". To be accurate, there is only mention of liking tomatoes, not saying the word, though that is, of course, implied.

I'll let Fred and Ginger explain it to you. And on roller skates, too. If I have to explain who Fred and Ginger are, I might just have to kill myself.

You Say Tomato is located at:

1526 California Street (Between Polk and Larkin)
Tel/Fax: 415 921 2828

Hours of Operation
Monday: Closed
Tuesday - Friday: 10:00 am -7:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 am -5:00 pm