I noticed a cafe in Bay St. Louis on Main Street called the Starfish Cafe’. The tagline was “Wellness for a Lifetime”. I initially suspected it was a health food store/cafe, and I wanted to stop by to see if there was anything I needed. I found their website and discovered a unique place with a heart of gold. I knew I had to have lunch there at least once.
The place is adorable. Beach colors on a 1920s bungalow sets the stage for a fabulous, quirky theme that made me smile. A garden out front had me wondering if some of the foods I would eat for lunch were grown just a feet away from where they were cooked. Stacy – a volunteer from Virginia – met me at the door and pointed me to the colorful room where I could find a table.
She provided me with a menu, and I told her that I wanted to know more about the place. She said Di would come chat with me. A colorful, smiling effervescent woman stopped by my table to brief me on the operation at the Starfish Cafe’. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone that glowed like Di. This is – in my own words – what she told me.
Di was part of a mission group at a church up north. A woman in her mission group had a vision of a decimated coastline the June before Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Her organization got busy purchasing supplies and gathering things they would need to help those in a still unknown location recover from the impending disaster. There are other supernatural things that pointed Di and her little band of angels to Bay St. Louis, but you can ask Di yourself about those. Their simple mission was to help one family at a time get back on their feet. After Katrina hit, they set up shop at the Second Street Elementary School, and Di found a long-term home in this little bayside village.
When their work was completed after the Katrina disaster, Di worked in a few different church missions in this area, but eventually she had a vision that would become the Starfish Cafe’. For you see, this is not just a cafe. There are no prices on the menu because patrons pay what they want for their delicious meal. The money goes toward training adults from ages 18-30 in basic life skills. They are trained to work in or run a restaurant and in developing other life skills such as anger management and financial literacy. The program is somewhat self-paced and takes anywhere from 8 – 20 weeks to complete depending on the motivation of the student. Stacy – and most of the staff – are volunteers who give their time to the nonprofit. And if you can’t pay for your meal, you can volunteer in the Cafe to pay your check.
I assumed that the Starfish Cafe got its name from the starfish story that I see posted on the internet and on greeting cards.
Di said that there is more to the story written by Loren Eiseley. He said that the little boy was throwing back the starfish that he could see pulling themselves away from the sand. In other words, he was helping the ones who wanted to live so bad that they were trying to help themselves. And, thus, the Starfish Cafe’ was named to fit its mission of helping others help themselves.
My lunch at the Starfish was amazing. They do indeed cook with the food they grow, but it will still be about 3 weeks before this year’s crop will be hitting the table. You can find out more specifics on their website, but suffice it to say that you won’t find healthier food options anywhere. I had the spring rolls, the strawberry-quinoa salad and a piece of delicious ginger lime pie. Stacy recommended I try the lavender lemonade, and it was wonderfully refreshing.
I’m in a detox group right now where we are experimenting with daily energy practices and the Ayurvedic lifestyle. Effie, our Ayurvedic teacher, filmed a cooking demonstration where she showed us how to make a Kitchari. She made the point that one of the most important ingredients of any dish you cook is a happy attitude. When cooking your food, the final dish is a combination of heat, spices, ingredients and whatever energy you bring to it. I thought of this when I was eating the unbelievably delicious meal I had at the Starfish Cafe’.
My salad was a medley of quinoa, sliced strawberries, pistachios, a delicious dressing, Di’s fabulous glow, the spirit of survivors, gratitude for second chances and the colors of that fabulous historical dwelling. The combination made the Starfish Cafe’ one of the happiest places I’ve ever been. I highly recommend checking out their website, stopping by for lunch – or the occasional fund-raising dinner- and, if you are so inclined, volunteering your services or your dough. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. You may not be able to help them all, but you can help this one.