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From fussy to food fanatic

It would be an understatement to say I ate well this 4th of July weekend. Most of you know I love food, and will find any way to talk about it, but I’ll admit, I didn’t always.
I was quite the fussy eater when I was younger. I despised onions, cauliflower, peppers, brussel sprouts, beets, cranberries, cabbage, celery, olives, liver, brats, and anything that typically made kids stick out their tongues and say, “Yuck.” 
But I was mostly known for my hatred of cheese.
I loathed sliced cheese, cheese curds, shredded cheese, string cheese, anything “real cheese.”
I could tolerate some meals, like Kraft macaroni and cheese (the fake stuff) and grilled cheese sandwiches, but anytime I had pizza, I scraped off all of my toppings onto my plate and handed them to my dad, while I devoured the flimsy crust smothered in tomato sauce.
You’re probably thinking I should just have order breadsticks, but there’s something so delicious about a doughy pizza crust that has been baking beneath mountains of juicy vegetables and savory Italian meats covered in mozzarella cheese. You just can’t get those flavors in a breadstick.
In high school, my lactose-intolerant friend, Loni, informed me you can order pizza without cheese, so I got in the habit of ordering no-cheese pizzas from Pizza Hut, but that wasn’t always a family favorite, so I continued to grab a fork and drag the toppings off my slices.
Eventually, my dad got so fed up at my picky habits that he grounded me from pizza until I learned to eat all of my toppings.
Yes, grounded from pizza.
I think I went about seven months without pizza before I grew up and realized I was a major idiot for not eating cheese, an enlightenment that has drastically changed my outlook on dining well.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned to really appreciate and savor food, and this fussy eater has developed a craving for the most unusual meals — homemade pad thai with roast pork, rice noodles, red cabbage, green onions and scrambled eggs sauteed in sesame oil and covered in peanut sauce or spicy Cuban stir fry consisting of cubed sirloin steak, red and yellow peppers, onions and olives.
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with my friend Brittany and her boyfriend, Jason, who is an outstanding cook, and introduced me to those unusual, delectable dishes.
Last Wednesday, they invited me over for homemade pizzas on the grill — the first a chicken alfredo pizza topped with fresh broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, vadalia onions and garlic, Roma tomatoes, and artichokes covered in provolone cheese.
The second creation was a shredded beef barbecue pizza enveloped in sauteed onions, sweet red, yellow and orange peppers, garlic and cheddar cheese.
I managed to devour two slices of each, toppings and all. Dad would be proud.
Brittany and Jason also know I adore food, and invited me to join them for a steak dinner before heading to the Taste of Minnesota Sunday evening.
You would think we’d want  to save our stomachs to enjoy the vendors at the Taste of Minnesota event, but who could pass up grilled T-bone steak, barbecue chicken thighs, wings, and legs, cheese ravioli swimming in alfredo sauce, romaine lettuce salad with fresh tomatoes,  garlic parmesan zucchini bread slathered with yogurt butter and homemade rhubarb strawberry pie topped with whipped cream for dessert?
Surprisingly, we were hungry by the time we got to the Carver County fairgrounds, and after perusing the different food stands, I settled on a reuben egg roll, stuffed with sauerkraut and corned beef, and I took the liberty of drowning it in a puddle of thousand island dressing. 
It was a perfect way to end the weekend, though my bathroom scale might disagree. I should probably cancel my pasta dinner night with them this week, but who could give up spaghetti and meatballs? And I can’t even begin to share my love of garlic bread.
I think I gained 10 pounds just thinking about it.