I find it difficult now to recall the collective wonder we all felt when a hiker discovered it those years ago: the beanstalk. On a foggy morning hike through the fells of Buttermere, a local resident stumbled upon a gargantuan plant, thirty feet in diameter, thrusting out of the hillside and stretching up into a mysterious assemblage of billowy clouds. This baffling botanical wonder was a worldwide phenomenon by the day’s end.
Efforts to penetrate the cumulus barrier with technology proved fruitless; some arcane force protected it. Eventually, an adventurous band of climbers calling themselves the Beanstalk Pioneers Society scaled the mystical vine. Above the clouds was discovered a charming village of giants who greeted the explorers warmly if warily. The giants prided themselves on simple pleasures: hospitality and good food. The explorers hauled down the stalk a gift of goodwill from the giants: an apple turnover the size of an SUV. That night the town of Buttermere feasted together on sheets of buttery pastry and handfuls of molten, cinnamon-spiced apple.
After some international diplomatic efforts, the giants opened their town to visitors from below. A spiraling highway was built, and eager tourists queued for months to visit the cloud city. The giants’ bakeries, candy stores, coffee houses, and pastry shops soon became a focal point of fascination. The delicate flavors and flaky textures seemed somehow magically enhanced. Always generous hosts, the giants excitedly performed their craft while onlookers snapped pictures of their massive hands kneading tons of dough or piping pools of icing with delicate precision
Over time, the giants embraced their Wonkaesque role, populating their shops with quirky flourishes to delight their patrons. One oft-repeated tale detailed a sighting of normal-sized moose eating a giant muffin, a seemingly clever children’s book reference, although conflicting accounts describe what sounds more like an elk. Personally, I favored the giant-sized cats that lounged around the stores and provided the transcendent experience of feeling like a mouse.
Some enterprising retailers even struck deals with the villagers to build their own human shops inside the giant counterparts, hoping to capitalize on the tourist traffic and minimal rents. But over time the allure of the cloud village faded. Perhaps the tipping point was the disastrous launch of the “Café in the Clouds” website. Or maybe it was The Great Spill of ’27 when a DoorDasher hauling a truckload of dark-roasted coffee drove off the edge of the sky highway, raining football-sized beans on the citizens of Buttermere, injuring many and significantly damaging property. Whatever the cause, one morning the clouds dispersed, and the beanstalk was gone, withdrawing its magic from our lives and back into the earth.