Fresh Is a Meaningless Word

I’ve been staying at a hotel for work all week. It’s a boutique hotel, so there’s no restaurant downstairs — just a cafe and bar that serves simple breakfast stuff in the mornings. I was there before the server this morning, and watched as she rolled up the cover to reveal all the baked items and juice and fruit underneath. They’d been there overnight.

“When were these muffins made?” I asked.

“Yesterday. They’re all fresh.”

The oxymoron sirens sounded in my head, though the server did not hear them. I’m not sure what others’ definition of fresh is, but mine firmly disallows muffins made the previous day. And orange juice squeezed more than 12 hours prior. To me, recent means, at the earliest, today. Many bakeries sell day-old baked goods at a discount precisely because they don’t taste as good as the stuff made that morning. Krispy Kreme has made millions by putting up signs advertising donuts straight out of the oven.

But the f-word has been on a precipitous decline anyway (my use of it in other articles notwithstanding), at least since Subway trademarked “Eat Fresh”. Does fresh mean that the lettuce was removed from the package that morning? That the meat was recently thawed? Was it fresh out of the bag? And then there’s farm fresh, factory fresh. Fresh, fresh, fresh. The word is meant to make something sound healthy or new, but it’s used in so many situations in which it is neither that it’s lost its meaning.

We may need a fresh word to replace it.