Does Great Food Make Us Unhappy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its long anticipated happiness ratings last week. The study, using data collected from 1.3 million people across the country over the past four years, found that the happiest folks tended to live in states with a high quality of life. No surprise there. But a closer look at how the states are ranked might lead one to conclude that quality of life has little to do with quality of dining. With few exceptions, states with the best restaurants in the country have the least cheery people residing in them.

For instance, citizens of New York State, home of what is generally regarded as America's finest food city, ranked dead last in happiness. Those living in the home states of Boston, Chicago, and LA/SF are rated, respectively, as the 44th, 45th, and 46th glummest humans in the land (out of 51, including District of Columbia). On the other end, such decidedly non-gastronomic centers as Alaska, Wyoming, Alabama, Montana, Mississippi, Maine, Arizona, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Hawaii contain ten of the top dozen happiest citizens.

Our own state of Florida scored quite well -- we are the third chirpiest people, although something tells me the fun and sun has more to do with this than Miami's preponderance of steak houses. Louisiana is the most glaring exception to the rule: It has a great restaurant city and its citizens are ranked happiest in America. Then again, said great restaurant city is still a mess after being flooded, which suggests that the Louisiana populace is simply being foolishly optimistic.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein