I like the phrase stir crazy. I used to imagine that it was the craziness you felt after stiring for too long whilst cooking. Or it would conjure up images of someone rolling their head around their neck, stirring their mind, going insane. Or the craziness you can get from routines that are just a bit to all consuming, when you feel like you have no control, you’re just being stirred around the pot of your life by a spoon you never wanted. Theres something inherently a little crazy about stirring, it’s just a little to repetitive, you can’t help but stare into what it is you’re stirring, and then you can’t help but mutter under your breath about how once complete, the contents of your pot will help you wreak great evil.

Shakespeare’s Hags, giving stirring a bad name since 1606.

But it transpires that stir-crazy has nothing to do with any of this. In fact, Stir-crazy takes pride of place as one of the longest running pieces of prison slang in the English language.   The phrase dates back as far as 1925 and is one of a host of sayings that link to the term ‘stir’ as a slang name for prison. ‘Stir’ itself originates from to old Romany words staripen meaning to imprison and sturiben meaning a prison. So Prison was the stir, and prison was a hard place to be. A place that pushed its inhabitance mental states all the way to the edge. So a phrase grew of ‘stir-bugs’ as those inmates who mental health deteriorated because of the mind-numbing boredom of incarceration. This phrase was not meant to refer to mental instability brought on by the shocking and brutal aspects of prison life, but the problems brought on by its shear depressing maddening boredom.

Solitary

Well, shear depressing maddening boredom is what we want to fight against here. Though we must confess that it is not on the quite so important scale as the issue of prison reform. No, what we want to get rid of is the depressingly, maddeningly boring state of modern cooking. Even the renegades seem to follow the same pattern at the moment, they have some tattoo’s, dress like they’re from the 50’s, and are vegan. That pretty much sums them up, which is weird? Why do they all look like that? It would be an interesting investigation in itself. I suspect that it’s something to do with a feminist inspired reclaiming of the old image of the traditional housewife. They wear these 50’s clothes that may be associated with the old ‘dinner on the table’ housewife of Norman Rockwell and the first American sitcoms…

The Little Lady.

but the hair is died black, the tattoo’s are showing, there’s a punk aesthetic front and centre.

Natalie Slater

I’m not meaning to patronise or insult. I’m saying nothing negative here. It’s just a fascinating image. It’s very conscious of the expectations on a woman who bakes, and of a woman with tattoo’s, and it attempts to subvert both expectations, and does so successfully I would say. All I’m saying though is that this is not a novel thing anymore, and novelty is key, it’s what moves things forward.

Good for them though, for moving things forward. Now we’re going to have a go.