The Globe Makes Us Hungry, and Misanthropic

1195569628Thanksgiving was once the warm-up for the stressful holiday season. It required only a trip to the grocery store, which was a nice practice run for dealing with the bargain-hunting hoards on Black Friday. People traveled with relative ease to their destinations, arriving in time to eat their meal and watch football. But if today’s Globe is any indication, Thanksgiving is either going to annoy the hell out of us, or kill us outright.

Our fun was ruined from our first glimpse above the fold, with the headline “Hard traveling ahead.” The days of busy-but-reliable holiday air travel are over.

An estimated 27 million passengers are expected to fly US airlines during a 12-day period that includes Thanksgiving week. . . And if recent months are any indication, the start to this year’s holiday travel season, which runs roughly through New Year’s, could be one of the most frustrating for flyers: Fares are up. Planes are fuller. And more and more passengers are being bumped.

Airlines this month raised holiday fares an average of 10 percent over last year because of soaring fuel prices. They also bumped more passengers in July, August and September – almost 10 out of every 100,000, compared to 7 out of 100,000 a year ago, according to the most recent statistics from the US Department of Transportation. And flights taking off this year have been 80 percent full on average – their highest passenger loads in 12 years. This week, planes will be 90 percent full on average, and some won’t have a single vacant seat for bumped travelers who need to be rebooked.

We’re a bunch of misanthropes even in our best moods, so the idea of standing around a crowd of stressed-out travelers who fear they’ll be bumped at any second makes our skin crawl. It’s almost enough to make us give up our holiday meal. Which would apparently be the best thing for our health.

Think cooking the perfect Thanksgiving dinner is stressful? Something else is far more likely to raise your blood pressure: salt hidden in all those goodies.

Do not blame the chef. Much of that salt was hidden from him or her, too.

Americans eat nearly two teaspoons of salt daily, more than double what they need for good health, and it is not because of the table salt-shaker. Three-fourths of that sodium comes inside common processed foods such as stuffing mix, gravy, and pumpkin pie.

. . . [T]he average American consumes between 3,300 and 4,000 milligrams of sodium a day.

Thanksgiving dinner can easily reach those limits. Stuffing can harbor up to 600 milligrams of sodium a serving, plus 300 for gravy. If you bought the salt-added turkey, plan on 490 milligrams. A biscuit can mean 350, although a dinner roll might have half that. Pumpkin pie does not seem salty, but one popular brand has 300 milligrams a slice.

Listen up, FDA. Stop messing with our Thanksgiving dinner. It is the one meal a year we completely let ourselves go. Give us our heaping piles of salt-injected turkey alongside our sodium-rich stuffing and gravy. We’ll probably even sprinkle a little extra salt on Mom’s awesome mashed potatoes, and go back for a second slice of pumpkin pie. And if we suffer a heart attack from our meal, all the better. If we’re hospitalized, we’ll miss the post-holiday crowds at the airport.