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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have come to the conclusion that you are our only hope. We have had an ongoing problem since moving into our home two years ago.

Our trash is picked up weekly in the alley at the rear of our home. We have a neighbor who uses one broken plastic container for his trash. The container is full early in the week, so by the end of the week, there is unwrapped garbage all over. We fear the worst -- rats.

The sanitation men do an excellent job, but it's not their responsibility to scoop up garbage that's scattered on the ground.

I've thought about confronting this neighbor, buying him more trash cans, even sending him pictures of the mess -- anonymously, of course.

Our dilemma is this: He's not a bad neighbor. His children play with our children and we like him -- we just want his trash to be contained like the rest of the neighbors'. Above all, we don't want any hard feelings. Please help, but keep us anonymous. -- EVANSVILLE, IND.

DEAR ANONYMOUS: Sending your neighbor pictures of his garbage won't help -- I'm sure he already knows what a mess it is. Call your sanitation department and ask if there are city regulations about garbage containers (I'm sure there are). Ask the director of the department to write a letter to your neighbor pointing out the infractions and insisting on compliance.

If the letter doesn't cause the neighbor to correct the problem, explain your concerns to him and request that additional containers be purchased -- and used.

DEAR ABBY: Some time ago, I ordered your cookbooklet "Dear Abby's Favorite Recipes," and only just now have tried one of your recipes -- the Burgundy Lamb Shanks. No need to tell you just how delicious they were: Even my husband -- who doesn't like lamb -- raved over them. I plan on serving this lively feast to guests some evening soon.

They are particularly suitable for entertaining, as I made them the day before (as you suggested), reheated them in the oven and served them on a bed of rice. Now I'm eager to try out a few more of your ideas.

Cookbooks are one of my hobbies. I think it's a real loss that most of our old recipes are disappearing and being replaced by ones mostly based on the quickness and ease of preparation, with not much time or love involved. They certainly would never be able to compete with your Burgundy Lamb Shanks. Thank you so much for sharing! -- MURIEL MCMAHON, WEST VANCOUVER, B.C.

DEAR MURIEL: Thank you for the kind words. Granted, many homemakers are now in the workforce and have limited time for cooking, but those who love the process as well as the result still manage to put together an occasional meal the old-fashioned way. Cooking is an interesting hobby, and one that provides a unique opportunity for bonding. Every time I cook with a new friend, I learn something.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112; (816) 932-6600