Written by Ashley Woody, studio assistant at JSS. On a cloudy, somewhat dreary Monday, I headed to the office to prep for a chaotic work week. A couple of hours into my day, I received a text from my mother that said something along the lines of “Call me now!” accompanied by a sad face. I stepped outside on our studio's balcony overlooking beautiful, gloomy Portland, only to be informed that my 94-year-old grandmother had passed away. I was taken aback at first, because of course, no one wants to hear of any family member dying (okay, maybe my mother-in-law… JK, JK) but then found a sense of relief, as she has been on hospice for a few months.
She died in the early afternoon of old age, in her own bed, surrounded by family. She has been battling Parkinson’s Disease and dementia for years. Knowing she has moved on to the next life, whatever that may be, I take comfort in her being free from any more pain.
I’ve had a chance to reflect on the type of woman she was. My grandmother is a first generation American; her parents were immigrants from Lebanon. The family settled into the heart of Hollywood, behind the Chinese theater. As a little girl, she would spend most nights in her back yard listening to the premieres separated only by a wooden fence. Even the gold confetti would fall down from the sky into her little French Lebanese face. Some Hollywood sparkle must have caught my grandmother’s eye because when she became a young woman, she dove head first into the glamorous (or seemingly) movie industry. She started as an executive assistant for Cecil B. DeMille at MGM. She was even offered a part in Cleopatra, but turned it down because she enjoyed being a bossy woman in a male driven industry. Talk about breaking the glass ceiling!
At some point in her career, my grandma became a personal assistant to Lucille Ball and Desi Lu. She used to tell me stories of how Lucy would send limos to pick her up so they could work on I Love Lucy scripts together. She described Lucy as a tough but fair business woman and modeled her work ethic after her.
Grandma Jeanne was a single mom to two children. She did everything she could to provide for them. She spent her later years of her career at Universal, befriending tons of people from Fabio to Barbara Eden (who later married our cousin.) She loved to travel. She made us grape leaves and kibbe and the best homemade macaroni in all the land. She gave me my first car, a ’99 T-Bird and expected nothing in return. She loved to gamble. Vegas was her home away from home. Once, she made me and my brother, probably 6 and 8, sit in the hallway of the MGM while she played slots. It must’ve been at least 20 minutes of just sitting there until the hotel security asked her to take us out of the casino area. She truly was the best grandma I could have asked for. No back scratch will ever match Grandma Jeanne’s gentle touch and the subtle lull of her singing a sweet lullaby, the comfort only a grandmother provides.
Jenna embraced me when I walked in tearful from the balcony with a warm hug. She immediately blasted Fleetwood Mac and offered to bake. My grandma was as sweet as pie, so today, we celebrate her life with these delicious mini peach pies.
Mini Peach Pies
Yields 12 servings
Refrigerated (or frozen and defrosted) pie dough - 2 rolls (usually sold as 2 rolls in a box)
4 ripe peaches, chopped
1 tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 tbsp bourbon (or whiskey)
6 tsp butter
1 tsp water
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Spray a muffin tin with Coconut Oil Spray or whatever cooking oil spray you prefer. Line the muffin tin with liners - I use the silicone ones from Ikea. Paper are fine too.
In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and bourbon. Then, add the peaches. I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer because I wanted the peaches to get a bit macerated. You can use a spoon or a hand mixer too.
Let the pastry dough warm up out of the fridge for just a few short minutes. The cold keeps the dough from completely falling apart, but if it's too cold, it just sticks together. Unroll the dough gently onto a wood cutting board. If you do rip holes into it, dab your fingers into a bit of water and mold the holes back together. Just a touch of water helps the dough stick together. Too much water and the dough becomes a sticky mess.
Use a circle cookie cutter or a cup to cut pie into circles that are just bigger than the base of your muffin liner. Place the pie circles into the bottom of each muffin liner.
Scoop the peach filling into each muffin liner, filling to near the top, but not overflowing. Place a 1/2 tsp of butter on top of each pie.
Use any leftover pie dough to cut out fun shapes for the tops of your mini pies. Place your various shapes on top.
Whisk up the egg and 1 tsp of water to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of your pies with the egg wash.
Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.
Reduce the heat to 350 degrees for another 10 minutes.
Cool for about 10 minutes before using a knife to scoop them out of the tin.
Photo via Ashley Woody