I met Tara about eighteen months ago at a Guardian Masterclass in London. Amongst a sea of very varied writers, Tara and I seemed to be in a similar writing place: we had both started writing (seriously) after the birth of our firstborns, and had both experienced about a decade of writing, agent hunting and further childbearing before our novels found their final homes. About to be published by small independents, we met at the Guardian offices near Kings Cross and sat through quite a bizarre evening of free wine and Powerpoint as we both struggled to understand the very testing world of book marketing and promotion. I'm not sure I learned a thing that evening but I was very glad to have met Tara...it's also been lovely to hear about her route to success since. In fact, 'Untouchable Things' was recently a best-seller on Amazon and rightly so: it's a gripping psychological thriller that interweaves a complex array of characters and their relationships. A brilliant read. Really happy to have her here today....
Don’t forget the sauce…
How do you eat your Christmas pudding? I’m not looking for adverbs here (greedily, messily, salaciously) but I’m wondering how you take it. With a little pouring cream? Dollop of brandy butter? Walls Vanilla? All on its own?
I know it’s the season of goodwill etc, but you’re all wrong. Everyone (in our family) knows that Christmas pudding exists only to be slathered with a thick white sauce laced with rum. It doesn’t matter that you’re as stuffed as the turkey you’ve just devoured, there’s always room for a bit of sauce.
This culinary tradition comes from my mum’s family, which hails from the Wigan area, but is most passionately adhered to by my dad, who’s from Calcutta. Dad came over here in the 1950s, bringing with him a sharkskin white dinner jacket and, as he soon discovered, an aversion to sweet mincemeat (he probably never quite got over the shock of his first taste, which he was expecting to be minced lamb). When Christmas arrived, he realised that this seemingly trivial dietary dislike was in fact a huge barrier to integration. Everywhere he went, he was offered mince pies, Christmas cake or Christmas pudding. Since Dad is never one to willingly go without dessert, he persevered with mincemeat and other festive fruity delights. At the same time he met Mum and was introduced to her white sauce, whereupon he fell in love twice over.
As far as Christmas dinner was concerned (and possibly in other respects), Dad was saved. My theory is that he took to Mum’s sauce, ahem, so strongly because it’s so thick and so alcoholic that it disguises and possibly partially dissolves the underlying raisiny richness. Whenever he eats Christmas dinner away from home now, one of us (my mum) has to get under the chef’s feet and knock up a white sauce for pudding. But I’m becoming as bad. I’ll leave a couple of roast potatoes so I’ve got enough space for that yummy, gloopy, wallpaper paste of a sauce. I even made my characters eat it in my novel, Untouchable Things. But they lacked appreciation, declaring that the (deeply dysfunctional) friendship round the table was even better than the homemade rum sauce. If I ever write a sequel, I’ll make sure they realise their mistake.
Tara’s Mum’s homemade rum sauce (serves 4)
Ingredients (All weights are “ish” and in old money).
2 oz butter
2 oz plain flour
15 fl oz milk
2 oz sugar
Rum to taste
Slowly melt butter on a v low heat in a small pan. Off the heat, work the flour into the melted butter with a wooden spoon till it's smooth. Gradually add the milk a little at a time & stir well each time to get rid of any lumps. Once all the milk is added & the sauce looks smooth, stir in the sugar & cook over a very low heat for about 8-10 mins, stirring constantly very slowly so that it doesn't stick. Then add the rum to taste. Chef’s note: don’t spare the horses…
I love this Tara! Have a lovely rum-filled Christmas...xxx
About Tara Guha
Tara Guha is the winner of the 2014 Luke Bitmead Bursary and Untouchable Things is her debut novel. Born to an Indian father and English mother Tara spent her childhood in the Ribble Valley, passing many a wet day writing poetry and music. After studying English at Cambridge University she embarked on a career in PR, promoting artists including Placido Domingo, Paul McCartney and Dudley Moore. Over the years she has also worked as a freelance journalist, counsellor and charity worker and is also a keen amateur pianist, singer and song-writer.
Tara lives in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire with her partner and two daughters.
Facebook: Tara Guha Author
About Untouchable Things
For the third time this week he is watching her scream. Watching, not listening.
Rebecca Laurence is centre stage and shining in her role as Ophelia. She pivots, rotating like a ballerina impaled in a musical box, red hair cascading down her back. Amidst the thundering applause, one man is watching.
Rebecca meets the charismatic Seth Gardner, and as attraction grows between them, he invites her to join his Friday Folly, a group of artistic friends. But as Rebecca is drawn into the web of tangled relationships all is not as it appears. The scene is set for the night that will rip the group apart.
Consumed by loss and surrounded by secrets, Rebecca must escape the grip of the Folly to have any chance of saving herself. Meanwhile, one man continues to watch.
Winner of the Luke Bitmead Bursary
‘A highly accomplished debut. An intriguing group of characters draw you in to an intoxicating world of tangled relationships and insecurities. Beautifully written with an outstanding ensemble cast.’ Linda Green
‘Tara Guha has a fierce imagination and a needlesharp eye. Untouchable Things is a wild ride, a book that is a gripping psychological thriller but also a bruising examination of the limits of friendship and of the dangers of the seductive narcissist.’ Stephen May
‘Suspense-laden and sensual, the tendrils of Tara Guha’s prose grip tight and pull you under. With a plot as taut as a tripwire, Tara Guha explores the cult of personality and the charismatic power exerted by one man over the cultured lives of modern, metropolitan creatives. A beguiling debut.' Benjamin Myers
Untouchable Things is available to buy here.