Peel pears and cut into quarters or sixths. Core pears.
Prepare a poaching syrup, 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup sugar (more or less to taste) with a cinnamon stick, some whole cloves, lemon or orange rind as wanted to flavor. Simmer the pears in the syrup until tender (15-20 minutes). Remove the pears and boil the syrup down slightly, then add vanilla or liqueur as wanted -- 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 Tablespoon brandy or orange flavored liqueur. Cool and serve plain or with soft custard, tapioca or whipped cream.