Steff Deschenes with broccoli dipped in cheese fondue.

LEWISTON — It began with Bloody Marys and a plan.

Steff Deschenes launched her Almanac of Eats on Jan. 1. The goal: a year of eating — or, in the case of National Bloody Mary Day, drinking — in honor of the national food holiday of the day. She pairs a vegetarian-tweaked recipe with suggested music to cook by. A food-inspired quote and fun fact. A blog post. And a picture of herself with the celebrated dish.

And she does this every night.

That’s on top of her full-time job as sales coordinator at KICTeam in Auburn.

“There’s actually no sleeping,” said Deschenes.

With National Grape Popsicle and Roast Leg of Lamb days to celebrate in May, who has time for sleep?

For two years, Deschenes, 27, had already taken pictures of herself at dinnertime and posted them online daily, inspired by the notion of a “365 Project.”

She kept it simple. “This is me, this is what I’m eating,” she said. “The second year companies started to send me food. ‘Do you want to try our fake chicken?’ I sure do.”

The third year needed more purpose. Online fans asked about recipes. With the idea of maybe producing a cookbook, everything gelled. With two days to go before New Year’s 2012, photographer and friend Jeffrey Remick helped create the website.

Deschenes has mapped out the year, a cornucopia of national days: Coconut Cream Pie, Spumoni, Cheeseburgers, Shrimp Scampi, Escargot. Deschenes, a vegetarian since 2009, researches online then reworks each day’s recipe to avoid meat, and often eggs and dairy (water, vegetable oil and baking power in place of an egg, f’am instead of ham, cheese-free vegan cheese for traditional cheddar.)

“Lobster Newburg Day was one of my most painful,” she said.

She used a mushroom substitute to cringe-worthy results.

“I take video of myself eating it, too,” Deschenes said. “The Internet is full of haters.” She wants to remove any doubt that she actually puts spoon to mouth.

Once a week, Deschenes shoots a video recapping the week and posts it on YouTube, showing each night’s dish, with animated commentary. On a recent week, her bunny, Boone, made a cameo. Deschenes posed topless, discretely, eating a dip made with Teese cheese. And she bemoaned a 3-pound weight gain (“If you do the math, this project is going to make me gain, like 10 pounds. Woe are my hips.”) Her website recorded 7,000 hits in March.

In April, one-third of the food days are being sponsored by companies looking to get their names out. Deschenes said she only approaches sponsors after trying, and liking, their wares. Otherwise, all the ingredients come from Hannaford or Whole Foods. Meals run between $8 and $12.

“Vegan whip cream is like $6 or $7 a canister,” Deschenes said.

But, she figures, eating, and healthy eating, can be her vice. Not that there’s much time for any others. Weeknights, she wraps Almanac work at 11 p.m.

Deschenes has self-published one book before, a self-help guide called “The Ice Cream Theory.” (She jokes that she can’t escape food.) She believes her recipes could easily come together for a cookbook and a lesson on eating well for twenty-somethings.

It ends Monday, Dec. 31 with Champagne Day.

“I remember Bloody Mary Day like it was yesterday,” she said.

[email protected]

Steff Deschenes prepares her fruits, veggies and bread for dipping in her cheese fondue.

Steff Deschenes prepares her fruits, veggies and bread for dipping in her cheese fondue.

Follow the Almanac of Eats online:

For National Raisin and Spice Bar Day (April 5):

Mama Spice Bars
1 cup of raisins
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg substitution (2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons baking powder)
1-3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan very well or line with foil and spritz with a cooking spray. Toss your raisins in a saucepan with some water and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool; drain. Put raisins in a bowl and add the almond milk, veggie oil, applesauce, brown sugar and egg substitution. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Stir together the wet and dry ingredients, spread into your greased pan, then bake for 20 minutes. “Cool before cutting in bar form and stuffing your face to make up for all the years you were deprived of such a beautiful treat,” says Steff Deschenes.

For National Peanut Butter Day (Jan. 24):

This Ain’t Yo Momma’s P.B. Sammy
Peanut butter
F’acon (fake bacon from either Lightlife or Tofurky)
Olive oil
Agave syrup (or honey)
Directions: Fry up your f’acon in some olive oil until dark and crispy. When it’s done sizzling, place on some paper towels to sop up the oil. Toast two slices of bread. Deschenes continues: “Smear one piece with peanut butter, layer with f’acon, and squeeze some agave syrup over the whole thing before topping it off with the other piece of toast.  Yeah, that just happened.”
For National Bean Day (Jan 6):

A Totally Vegan Chili That’ll Make Grown Men Cry
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
Olive oil
1 package of chili seasoning
Can of dark red kidney beans
Can of pinto beans
Can of garbanzo beans
4 to 6 tomatoes
Can of tomato sauce/crushed tomatoes
Shredded vegan cheese
French fries
Directions: Bake your French fries, but not all the way (remember: they’re going back in the oven later). Dice onions, crush garlic and saute both in some olive oil until translucent. Add roughly chopped tomatoes. Stir it all up. After a few moments add tomato sauce/crushed tomatoes. Stir it all up. After a few moments add all of the beans. (Tip: Make sure you rinse your beans in a colander under cold water before using.) Add your seasoning, and stir it all up. “Now,” says Deschenes, “and this is a practice in ultimate patience: Let the whole thing simmer (for as long as you can stand it) before tossing on some French fries and topping that with cheese. Bake it until the cheese has browned a bit. Then eat ’til your piggy heart can’t eat no more.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: