DEAR ABBY: When I was in law school, I shared an apartment with three other graduate students who, like me, held part-time jobs and had little time, money, cooking ability or interest in preparing meals. Each of us got his own breakfast and we took turns preparing dinner -- which usually consisted of a canned vegetable, hamburger meat, a baked potato or the like -- and was barely edible. (I lost 25 pounds going through law school.) But no matter how poor the meal was, my roommate "Joe" invariably said, "That was a mighty fine dinner!"
One evening, when the meal I had prepared was even worse than usual and Joe had nevertheless complimented me, I asked, "Joe, you know that food was hardly fit for human consumption. Why do you always say it's good?"
"I come from a family of 11 children," Joe answered. "My mother would spend all afternoon in the kitchen preparing the evening meal. Then, one night when she called us to the table, there was only a plate at each place with a pile of hay on it. My father looked at it and asked her, 'Jessie, what is this hay doing on our plates?' Mother said, 'Oh, you noticed! This is the first time any of you have ever given any indication that you know what was on your plate!'"
"I vowed then and there," Joe added, "that I would always express my appreciation to the person who had prepared my meal."
Ever since then I have followed Joe's example. (Fortunately, I married a great cook as well as the best wife a man ever had.) -- PAUL M. BARNES, GREEN VALLEY, ARIZ.
DEAR PAUL: Thanks for a cute letter, and for the reminder that we should all take a moment to express gratitude for the things we take for granted. I hope you will share this column with your wife. I'm sure she'll appreciate the hearty endorsement.