Monday, December 27, 2010

Lady of the Haystack

In 1776 an unfortunate woman was found taking refuge under a haystack.  She was said to be quite young, very beautiful and well mannered.   By day she would seek charity from the local people, but at night she would always return to the haystack.  Ladies from the nearby town, who knew of her situation, provided her with food and begged her to seek proper shelter.  The young woman would decline saying only that “trouble and misery dwelt in houses.”    She retained residence in the haystack for nearly four years refusing the protection of a roof even in winter.

Hannah More, an English writer and philanthropist, took up the cause of the Lady of the Haystack.  Hanna found her “handsome, young, interesting, enough Mistress of her reason carefully to shut up from our observation every avenue that might lead to her secret.” Hannah had her removed to a private lunatic asylum, paid for her food, clothing and a personal attendant. 

When asked, The Lady of the Haystack declined to give any account of her birthplace, parentage, or past life, though from casual remarks it was inferred that her family was of high distinction. A peculiar accent led observers to suppose that she was a foreigner.  It believed that she was the illegitimate daughter of the Emperor Francis I, emperor of Austria, and thus a half-sister to Marie Antoinette.  The Empress had her arrested and secreted off to Belgium where a small number of coins "were put into her hands, and she was abandoned to her wretched destiny."  

Hanna wrote of her ward in “A Tale of Real Woe”,  offering what little she had been able to learn about the woman: “that her Father was a German, her Mother an Italian; that she has one brother and one Sister; that her father had a very fine garden full of olive and orange Trees.”
The Lady of the Haystack spent the last 16 years of her life in the asylum eventually degenerating into helpless idiocy.  She died in December, 1800. Miss More continued to the last to contribute towards her maintenance, and paid the expenses of her funeral. The mystery surrounding the Lady was never cleared up and when she died, she took her secret with her.


The Lady of the Haystack may have been half-baked but these yummy haystacks are no-bake.

These cookies are extremely easy to make and make a fun introduction to the kitchen for children.

No-Bake Haystacks
  • 3 Cups Quick Cooking Oats
  • 1 Cup Flaked Coconut
  • 1 Cup Roasted Peanuts, Chopped
  • 2 Cups White Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Mix the oats, coconut, and peanuts together in a large bowl.

Stir the sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa powder together in a saucepan and bring to a boil; boil for 1 minute and immediately remove from heat.

Stir the vanilla into the cocoa mixture; pour over the oat mixture and stir to coat.

Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of the mixture and drop into haystack-like piles onto waxed paper; allow to cool completely before serving.

Makes about 30 cookies.

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