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Fried fish for breakfast honors a friend

Bob Pfaff used to knock on the window of the Old Style Deli early in the morning and want owner Janice Hayden to make a batch of fish.

She’d let him in. And they’d make the fish. As she said, you eat half a dozen pieces of fresh bluegill and perch, you’re good for most of the day.

The Elkhart attorney, who died May 9, would have been 81 on Wednesday, June 18. And Hayden fried a batch in his honor. Family members and friends gathered at the restaurant at 200 S. Main St. for breakfast – including fish.

Pfaff taught her how to make fish, Hayden said. The key is a flour mixture with a bit of seasoning and keeping the skin on. “The skin makes the crispy outside,” she said. The scales should be removed on the fish. Pfaff used an electric scaler, she said.

Pfaff was a character. He could weave a tale, whether it was in a courtroom or around a dinner table. He’d gather with friends and play cribbage, eat and drink. I sat around a table with him this winter and enjoyed a night of stories, of toasts, of a guy who loved life.

Ben Pfaff, Bob’s son, was at Old Style this morning with his mother, Betty, and sister, Elise. He had fish on his plate. And he told of how his grandmother would fix fish for breakfast. That’s where Bob learned it.

They told a few tales this morning. And they remembered a man they loved. 

Fried panfish — as Bob Pfaff taught Janice Hayden

Mix white flour with small amounts of Lawry’s seasoning salt, garlic pepper and dill weed. “Not too much. But I don’t measure,” she said.

Dredge the gutted, scaled fish filets in the flour.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet or on a flat-top grill

Place the fish skin-side up for several minutes until the flesh whitens. Flip and finish until fish is firm, but not overcooked.


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