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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: I'll be on vacation between Aug. 18 and Aug. 31. Don't panic -- I've selected some of my favorite letters from past years to fill the gap. I hope you enjoy them.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married for six years to a wonderful man. Although I have hinted broadly on many occasions that I would dearly love some acknowledgment of my cooking, I have yet to receive one word of appreciation for anything I have prepared since our marriage.

I know he enjoys good food because he has mentioned from time to time that his first wife was a great cook. I have baked cakes and pies from scratch, made gourmet dishes, casseroles, stews, pot roasts and turkey dinners with all the trimmings, with nary one "That was good, dear."

I am considering serving him dog food, scooped out of the can and garnished with a few steamed onions and a sprig of parsley, just to see if I get a reaction.

I know a man could have far worse faults than being totally indifferent to a wife who knocks herself out nightly in the kitchen, but one gets tired of buying groceries, planning menus and preparing fine meals for someone who never utters a word of appreciation. Sign me ... UNAPPRECIATED IN LONG BEACH

DEAR UNAPPRECIATED: A friend of mine had the same problem. In desperation, she wrote the following message and presented it to her husband with his coffee after dinner:

"The chef respectfully requests that you comment on the dinner you have just consumed. Would you rate it: Excellent? Good? Fair? Poor?

"Failure to comply with this request could cause the dining room to discontinue its service."

Needless to say, she received a generous outpouring of compliments -- and still does. Try it.

DEAR ABBY: My husband's former wife, Velma, with whom we have remained on fairly good terms, invited us to her home for a party. She is now married to a very well-to-do man.

Velma told me it was going to be a costume party, so my husband and I dressed up like a couple of rabbits.

Imagine our surprise when the butler opened the door and ushered us into a room filled with men in tuxedos and women in stunning gowns! We felt like a couple of fools. Velma laughed and said she thought it was funny. I was very upset to have been made the butt of her joke, so I got myself a glass of punch and spilled it on her gown. Then I laughed and told her I thought it was funny. However, she didn't see anything funny about it.

My husband isn't speaking to me, and he thinks I owe Velma an apology. What should I do? -- A WIFE IN NEED

DEAR WIFE: Send Velma a bunch of carrots, and tell her you're sorry.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 21-year-old single female in love with a 26-year-old male (I'll call Freddy) whom I hope to marry one day. Freddy and I have been dating for a year and have talked about marriage, but there is nothing definite yet.

The problem is Freddy's roommate, Ralph. Ralph's girlfriend, Debbie, moved in with him and Freddy. I'm not exactly jealous, but I hate the idea of the three of them living together in that little apartment. It's only big enough for two, and it must be very crowded and uncomfortable. Freddy says Debbie is only staying there until she and Ralph get married, but no date has been set yet and they don't seem in any hurry.

Abby, if Ralph and Debbie want to live together, don't you think they should get their own place? All my friends think it's the pits, and they keep asking me how I can let it go on. I'm really upset and don't know what to do. Is there some way I can get Debbie out of there? Or should Freddy move out? Please advise. -- IN THE MIDDLE IN MIDLAND

DEAR IN: As I see it, you are not in the middle. You are more appropriately on the outside -- Freddy is in the middle. If he's crowded and uncomfortable, he should move out. The decision is his, not yours.

DEAR READERS: If you would like your letter considered for publication, please include your name, area code and telephone number.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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