Sorry Thanks I Love You
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HONK

HONK

It’s a familiar scene for any small-towner. Against a backdrop of the showground’s rickety timber pavilion, crowds of locals peruse market stalls for plants, fresh produce, local honey and ginger beer while tucking in to a steak sandwich cooked by the local P&F.

But Tasmania’s Bream Creek Farmers Market has a secret edge.  Hidden amongst the stalls of home-baked jam fancies and kiss biscuits, suction-packed goat meat, and piles of locally grown apples and spuds, there’s a single trestle table upon which a huge vase of homegrown flowers jostles for space with a tower of slender black-labelled glass jars.

Each one is filled with a substance the colour of brown sugar.  A blackboard propped up on the ground proclaims HONK in huge white letters, and the whole operation is overseen by a bespectacled woman with long, wispy blonde hair and a warm smile: Kaarina Honkavaara.

 

Utter the words ‘honk’ and ‘mustard’ in quick succession to a Tasmanian, and their eyes light up with glee. Based on a Finnish family recipe, HONK is a mysteriously spicy and slightly sweet mustard that has reached legendary status in its adopted home. Combining a mix of secret spices with olive oil and tangy vinegar, HONK gives new meaning to an eye fillet steak and pot of mashed potato – though it’s probably best enjoyed slapped on a juicy sausage, Finn-style. 

The recipe is a Honkavaara original. “I got the recipe from my mother in law when l was in Finland before l moved to Australia in 1975,” says Kaarina. “It was the only mustard we ever used at home.”

Kaarina started making this intriguing, impossibly more-ish mustard for her café, Fish Lips, which she and her partner started 14 years ago in Taranna, 40 kilometres further south down the peninsular.   So many customers asked where they could get their hands on some that she started bottling it and selling it at the café. Next came the farmers markets – both Bream Creak and Hobart Farmers Gate -  and then the VIP kitchen at the Falls Festival in Marion Bay. 

One tiny dollop and you’ll see why.  HONK’s distinctive flavour is difficult to describe, but Kaarina puts it down to the unique blend of spices in the recipe.  (The exact combination remains firmly in the vault.) The fact that she only uses natural ingredients doesn’t hurt either. As one Tasmanian put it, you can’t untaste HONK.

Jars of HONK are normally bought in multiples of three or four by locals in the know, mainly to prevent a pantry shortage when Kaarina goes back to Finland for the Tasmanian winter.

“I was born in a sauna in Jalassaari, a small rural island in Finland about 45 minutes from Helsinki,” says Kaarina.  “l was ready to arrive and we didn't make it to the hospital! l have lived in Australia for over 42 years. I love both countries,” she says. “My partner and l visit Finland every year to enjoy the summer with family and friends in our retirement.”

HONK is a permanent side project for Kaarina, whose days are packed with serving breakfast to her accommodation guests, prepping food for the café, cleaning floors, making beds, cooking meals, and paperwork – besides the making of the mustard.

Up until now, HONK has only been available at farmers markets and a handful of retailers on the island – and right now, HONK is an entirely one-woman show. (Kaarina’s mother always told her, ‘whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability.’ 

But with its arrival on the mainland for the first time at Sorry Thanks I Love You in Sydney and local demand only increasing, one wonders how long this may be the case. Especially as, for most people, a first taste of HONK signals the beginning of a lifelong love affair.

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For the first time, HONK mustard is now available outside Tasmania. Click here to try it.