Portrait of the month: Nicu, companion and cook at the community center and for the homeless people of Iasi (feb. 2020)

We took advantage of this month of maraudes and staying in Belgium to interview Nicu, a companion in Iasi, whose role is essential during the winter period. Come and discover his testimony made on a food distribution tour…


Hello, can you introduce yourself?

My name is Nicuşor A., I am 31 years old. In Emmaus, Im involved in the food distribution program: cooking, going out on the streets, distributing clothes and food to the homeless. I go shopping in the morning, then we prepare sandwiches, soup and tea. I work mainly with volunteers in civic service who come from France.

And how does it work, on the street? How is the food distribution organized?

When I am on the street, I distribute food with the volunteers who are on the program that day. We make a program for the week. On Monday, we make a table, and from Monday to Friday there are several volunteers, they are not the same every day. Usually on Monday there are three of us, while on other days there are two of us if there are no clothes to donate.

And it’s only Emmaüs who cooks for the street people?

No, we also take ciorba (soup) at a partner restaurant: Cuib, from Tuesday to Friday. Sometimes we don’t go to the night center, because there is another association that goes there: Ştergem o lacrimă (Wiping out a tear) or Harmony. These are two associations that come once a week or once every two weeks. In these cases, we do not go to the center at night.
Once a week, I cook something more substantial than soup for homeless people. I make cartofi
mâncarica (a kind of goulash) with meat or bacon. In the morning I go shopping and after I prepare vegetables, meat … it takes two to three hours.

We gave this recipe in last month’s letter. To find it, click on this link

Besides the food distribution program, what do you do?

Besides the food distribution, I cook in the community. I cook for the food distribution and for the community.

Since when do you like cooking so much?

I always wanted to learn how to cook. When I was younger, I went to my family, to see friends, I watched how other people cooked. And since I was little, I decided that when I grew up I would go to cook school to become a cook and cook food. I went to school for three and a half years, a public food worker and learned to cook different dishes. But I didn’t learn only in school, I also learned from other people…

And did you work outside Emmaus?

I worked at Cuib restaurant as a cook and I also worked in two other restaurants.

You were in Belgium a short time ago… why?

I went to an event organized by the Mergem association, which celebrated 20 years of activity. The Mergem association has helped us and is still helping us financially for the food distribution, for the homeless. This time, when we went to Brussels with Leïla, Mergem helped us buy fruit trees for the Belvedere. Our stand was intended to finance the fruit trees that we will plant at the Belvedere. A tree costs 10 euros (the purchase and the costs of planting). People would give us the money, they would draw a tree and we would hang it on our booth sign. The objective of the evening was to reach 200 trees. We funded 184.

For the rest, the event was great. Really enjoyed it. We found Laetitia, who had a stand with the drawings of Nicu E. (Nicu is a young person who came out of the street a short time ago. He currently lives with his sister, and to financially support the family, Laetitia, in association with Mergem, organized a sale of Nicu’s drawings as part of this event). There was also David’s stand, where were sold zacusca (Romanian specialty consisting of a ratatouille cooked over a wood fire with eggplant and peppers) and sour cherry jam (zacusca and jam are made by a family from Turda – a city located in the North-West of Romania – and sold in Belgium (this represents financial support for the family). There was also food that people could buy. We ate Romanian soup. I also ate something with mushrooms … what’s its name, this round thing … quiche. For the first time, I ate quiche. Very good.

Thank you very much, Nicu! We wish you good luck!