My Grandma’s Saffron Poached Pears

My Grandma's Saffron Poached Pears

Saffron Poached Pears

These are my grandmother’s pears.   The recipe comes  from the quirky handwritten recipe books she left behind.   A dessert so beautiful and so easy to make.  It could never be said that her recipe style tilted to the exotic so its surprising  that she even knew what saffron was.

They don’t really look like they would cause anyone issues do they?

I was reminded of my grandmother’s pears several weeks ago while watching a new season sitcom.   Except for one scene the entire show was unmemorable — as typically so many of the new shows are.   In this scene the main character inadvertently discovers that the copious notes his therapist had been scribing throughout supposed years of therapy were nothing more than nonsensical doodles and scribbles.

On screen much hilarity ensued.     Off screen I didn’t think it was very funny.  It reminded me of the years I spent with my grandmother.  And Dr. Milo.

You see, years ago I was given the unexpected chance to read my former therapist’s session notes.   They were written in the tiniest cursive I had ever seen a man write.  Nearly 3 lines could fit into each line of the regular student notebook paper he used.    This, and his brevity allowed for 4 years of ‘on again off again’ therapy notes to fit on 3 pages of paper.

Despite the risk I might discover something I wouldn’t  like I quickly decided I was curious enough to read them through.     Was reading these even legal?    Despite my trepidation the experience was for the most part was oddly comforting and not at all that surprising.   It was somewhat akin to flipping through a friend’s old photo album and once again enjoying the faces you hadn’t thought of in years — even the faces of those who had once caused you pain.

Then I got to the last very line from of my very last session with Dr. Milo:

“T  – has found steady peace but should always work on his grandmother pears”. 

I never figured out what that meant exactly.

* * *

Dr. Milo died two weeks after he wrote that last entry.   It was my last session not because he had died but rather by my choice and mutual agreement.   Successful “moving on” also meant moving on from him and it was time.  His unexpected death just following my departure, however, was unexpected only to his patients;  it seemed his friends and family knew he had been sick for a very long time.   I remember wondering if wrapping things up at that time was really my idea?

It was some 15 years after that last visit when a big brown envelope arrived in the mail postmarked Ft. Lauderdale , a place I had never been.  The unfamiliar return address written in unsteady handwriting didn’t  yield any clues to its origin.    I could tell something important was inside as a big swath of packing tape was wrapped around its closure to indicate that  its sender could not trust its contents to simple adhesive and saliva.

A slim, tightly sealed #10 envelope made of  dark velum was inside and a small small note written by Dr. Milo’s partner was attached.   I had met him only a few times when bad timing would have us both awkwardly walking into the office space they shared at the same time.  I tried to figure out if he was Dr. Milo’s partner or if he was his “partner”.   It turned out he was both.   Or “both”.


I began seeing Dr. M as a 21 year old.  I was living with my grandmother when she had discovered I was gay and then quckly pushed me out of the closet unwillingly and without my knowledge.    My still young lifetime of striving to be invisible had not prepared me for the public display she had thrown me to.   In case you wondered what those dreams people get about being naked in a crowd of people are about —  they are about my twenties.

Not all of the sudden attention was bad. Quite a bit was supportive and loving — but in her case, the microscope she had trained on my every move those years was not only intense but also terribly out of focus.  I was never sure if she had leaned to retrain her sights on ‘me’ instead of ‘it’.

Dr. Milo gave me the tools I needed to work through those years and let go of them.    Or so I thought.


Saffron Poached Pears

So there I sat with three sheets of notebook paper crammed with tiniest writing I had ever seen and a magnifying glass.  The note from Dr. Milo’s “partner” explained that he had recently found my file while going through Dr. M’s things and, after reading them through (!),  thought that I would want to read them too.

I did and I did.  Evidently I had neglected one last homework assignment from Dr. Milo:

“T  – has found steady peace but should always work on his grandmother pears”. 

Which is exactly what I did last Sunday after being reminded by a TV program of some unfinished business:

My Grandma's Saffron Poached Pears

My Grandma’s Saffron Poached Pears

My Grandma’s Saffron Poached Pears

This is what you will need:

  • 6 firm pears, left whole, peeled and rubbed with lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon cut with a peeler
  • 1 1/3cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

This is how you make it:

  1. Place wine and water with saffron, lemon zest, sugar and star anise into a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to the boil stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add pears and and poach gently for 20-30 minutes or until just tender.
  4. If pears are unable to be submerged, turn regularly so that they cook and color evenly.
  5. Plate pears to a bowl or platter.
  6. Reduce remaining liquid to a syrup by boiling rapidly for about 5 minutes.
  7. Pour syrup over pears and serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.


About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don't know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]" means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small 'boom' in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a "food blog" or even myself a "food blogger".

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  1. I am so glad you have finally brought your grandmother’s pears out of the closet! What an odd note-taking style this Dr. M. had … supposedly Werner Herzog kept a similar notebook, in which he wrote with almost microscopic handwriting, while losing his mind during the filming of Fitzcarraldo (though he claimed to be clinically sane) … perhaps Dr. M. needed a therapist more than you did? As an aside, I am wondering what your grandmother thought of your sister?? Just curious!

  2. Both of my daughters have been known to go through their files in doctors offices (and read notes out loud)… Which has ended up in some VERY awkward situations…

    Family has a way of pushing us way outside of our comfort zones – sometimes painfully so. I am not sure if that is a blessing or a curse. Looking back on my own life – I think it was a little of both (perhaps weighed more heavily on the curse side…)

    Lovely pears.

  3. This was a great post…so moved by your writing! And Grandma’s Pears looks so yummy! Have a nice weekend!

  4. Very touching post. And very lovely pears. And there rarely is a happy medium with reactions, no- either we get more exposure than we signed up for (usually the case) or instead Watergate level collusion ensues. Not honestly sure which is better. Glad you had someone you could talk to, but that line in the notes now has me wondering too….. 🙂 Thx for sharing it all.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and your grandmother’s pears. I can’t wait to try them!

  6. What a fab post! I think you have done a great job on those grandmother pears – case closed!

  7. Lovely pears, Trevor! I can’t wait to try them.

    It’s funny how going through old papers and notes can take you back to moments from your past instantaneously. You seem to have been fortunate enough to have found someone who had so much empathy for you. I’m sure he would be proud of the person you’ve become.

  8. Wow. What a story. Its always interesting how when you find old documents or photos, they transport you back to that time, and even might evoke those same thoughts or feelings you had back then.

    Cheers to moving forward, and also great recipe. I guess you worked on those pears! 🙂

  9. Past papers can be a double edged sword sometimes. I do not think I would want to read notes from my childhood doctor. Interesting story about your found papers.
    The pear recipe is a true treasure, glad you made them-yum!

  10. That was a very brave and touching post. I’m glad you got Dr. M’s notes – between that and the pears, I hope you get a sense of peace and closure.

    Here’s to moving forward!

  11. Like a recipe read but as yet untested, this post leaves me longing for more. How did your grandmother expose your secret? How did she find it out? Did she find you poaching pears in the dead of night while sipping chilled Perrier?

    I can’t wait to taste the recipe, but I’m even more eager to learn the rest of the story.

    This post is more appetizer than desert.


  12. Such a trip back in time elicited by the arrival of your parcel. You were lucky to have had Dr. M to help you find that “steady peace” and we were lucky your surprise package brought us a delicious pear recipe~