Indiana Beach: Shafer Lake Salad Recipe

Oh, how times have changed.  Especially weddings. It has been exactly 50 years today since that simmering August of 1968, when I married the love of my life. We honeymooned at his family cottage in rural Indiana for the grand sum of $50 – and that was spent on groceries! But when we went back there a few years ago, we didn't count on getting such a gourmet lunch at what is still essentially an Indiana Honky Tonk.

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When they dammed up the Tippecanoe River in 1926, they created Lake Shafer right in the middle of an Indiana cornfield. And that gave Earl Spackman an idea. Why not make a beach front there, complete with a bathhouse and refreshment stand.

Earl's vision of "Riviera of the Midwest," complete with the Ideal Beach Ballroom, never quite lived up to its original name, but it was as close to the real Riviera as this 21 year old honeymooner would ever get, seeing as she and her grad school husband were on a strict budget.

That was the summer of 1968, that steaming August when the Chicago police were out in riot gear defending their city from the peace protesters who were making love as well as a sort of war -- among other things -- on their streets.

It was a year old turmoil, the death of Martin Luther King in April, Bobby Kennedy in June, and the chaotic Chicago Democratic Convention in August.

But all that seemed very far away that day 50 years ago when my husband carried me over the threshold into his family cottage on the little lake in Indiana. Our "hotel" was free, which left us with our entire honeymoon budget of $50 to splurge on everything Indiana Beach had to offer.

We could take in the sites, watch the daily ski shows, and even eat out at the famous Sky Room Restaurant perched above the boardwalk.

When we returned a few summers ago with my sister Ann and her husband George, Indiana Beach was even bigger but perhaps not better. It now boasted a water Slide and was home to at least six roller coasters, including -- drum roll, please -- "the world-famous Cornball Express, voted the #1 Wooden Coaster in the world by ThemeParkCritic.com in 2002."

But some things, thank goodness, had not changed. There was still the Shafer Queen, that glorious old paddleboat that evoked visions of Mark Twain and was a bit more comfortable for our crew than the careening coaster.

And the Skyroom was still there, its cuisine a gourmet surprise hovering above the corn dawg / snow cone haven below it.

We all had the Chef's Cobb Salad, a feast for the eyes as well as the palate, with rows of cheese, chopped eggs, bacon, black olives, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and avocado slices lined up in military parade.

Pictured above is the less than perfect replica Gary and I created for our friends Rob and Sue the next week in Wisconsin.

We eliminated the bacon as a token gift to our arteries, and served it with croutons and a choice of dressings. Truly a meal in itself and almost too much, even after a day of rowing and swimming in the crystal clear water of Waupaca, Wisconsin.

I will never forget that steaming August of chaos and hope, the Indiana cornfields, the little cottage on the lake that still stands, and a world of treasured memories that have their roots deep in the rich Indiana soil.

Skyroom Cobb Salad

Following the Italian tradition, I will leave the recipe unfettered with obscure measurements. Just look at the picture and decide how much stuff you will need.

Ingredients for individual salads

  • Field Greens of your choice
  • Shredded Cheese (Cheddar or Provolone is good)
  • Hard-Boiled eggs, quartered
  • Chicken, ham, or turkey, sliced or cubed
  • Pitted and chopped black olives
  • Skinned and sliced cucumber
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Avocado slices
  • Individual dressings  (Ranch or Balsamic vinaigrette worked well for us)
  • Croutons if desired

Recipe Source: Inspired by the chef at Indiana Beach Skyroom Restaurant