When my very first cesta de navidad arrived, wrapped up in cellophane and emblazoned with Corte Inglés publicity, I excitedly ripped open the top of the box and dug out the contents of the box.
I was literally a kid on Christmas morning, just three weeks early.
Many companies and organizations give pre-packaged Christmas baskets to their employees during the holiday. They’re also raffled off at bars and hermandades for a few euros, but they all have two things in common: edibles and booze.
In my first cesta, I received four bottles of wine, one of whiskey and one of anisette, plus enough cured meat to tide me over until Easter. Baskets also include typical Christmas sweets, cheeses, conservas like bonito or white asparagus and an interesting brick of something called a “Christmas Broth.” Contents are neatly packed up and shipped out to the tune of anywhere from around 20€ and up to 300€!
While my Christmas shopping usually consists of plane tickets to spend the holidays somewhere with my parents, this year I’ll be flying home for wedding planning. Rather than scramble for gifts amidst other scrambled shoppers, I decided to make a twist on the traditional Christmas basket by bringing my favorite and American-palatte-approved goodies home in ceramics.
Because, really, what do you get the woman who has it all (as far as Spanish souvenirs go) and is picky?
My American-Tastes-and-Customs-Friendly-While-Still-Being-Andalusian Cesta de Navidad:
1 50g sachet of saffron – 5€
The same amount of azafrán in the US costs $16, so I was thrilled to find it wrapped up nicely!
1 220g package of Andalusian oranges covered with chocolate and olive oil – 5€
Everyone in my family but me are chocoholics, and these oranges are representative of Seville, with the olive oil giving it an appropriate amount of acidity.
1 300g orange marmalade spread – 4,50€
Naranjos abound in Seville, and the oranges collected from them are made into bitter orange marmalade. Nuns at the Santa Paula monastery make this particular type, and peddle it out of their turnstiles.
1 250mL tin of Basilippo Arbequina extra virgin olive oil – 8€
Basilippo is an award-winning brand of extra virgin olive oil planted, harvested and pressed in nearby El Viso del Alcor. The arbequina olive it’s made from is known for its suave and balanced taste.
1 package of Ines Rosales Tortas de Aceite with cinnamon and sugar – 2,50€
Tortas de Aceite have been around for ages, and Ines Rosales is an international superstar when it comes to producing them just outside of Seville. Other varieties include savory with rosemary and sea salt, or made with oranges.
Assorted lard-free polverones – 2€
I’m not a fan of these crumbly cookies, which are ubiquitous with Christmas in Spain. The most common version are made from manteca, or pig’s lard, which is a no-no with customs in the US. I found some piggy-free varieties at Ines Rosales.
6 Cola Cao individual packages – 1,43€
The bright yellow plastic canisters are a Spanish kitchen staple, and I love the powdery goodness of Cola Cao every Sunday with my churros. Rather than buying the canister, you can get individual packets just like at a bar.
1 package of Suchard turrón with whole almonds – 2,94€
Spanish Christmas sweets let me down, but chocolate turrón is practically a gigantic candy bar. The normal stuff is nougat, made only with sugar, egg whites and honey.
3 individual bottles of Frexienet cava – 3,99€
These small bottles of cava are festive and perfect for toasting the new year at midnight on New Year’s Eve. And they’re easy to carry and open!
3 individual tetra bricks of Don Simón red wine – 1,35€
I’m the only wine drinker in my family, so these miniature tetras are for novelty more than anything! Plus, customs is getting stricter on how much alcohol you can bring back, and it must be claimed on your customs form.
1 jar of pimientos de piquillo – 1€
For whatever reason, I thought that pimientos de piquillo would make a good gift for a dad who loves to experiment with recipes. If all else fails, I don’t think they’ll go bad any time soon!
San Vicente semi-cured cheese – 3,65€
Meats are a big no with customs, but hard and semi-hard cheeses are totally fine. My sister loves any sort of stinky cheeses, and this is one gift I’m glad to get in on!
2 bottles of Taïfa beer – 4,40€
My family members are big beer drinkers, so I picked up some local Taïfa cervezas from the Mercado de Triana.
And to put it all together, 1 ceramic bowl – 12€
All that extra weight cost me 50.05€ for each cesta.
I added little touches of things I’d known would be hits, such as black-and-white old photos of Seville for my parents, a tub of Nutella for my sister (not Spanish, but what everyone equates with European snack food) and a Spanish heavy metal CD for my brother-in-law.
Noticeably absent are the meats, the fish and the olives, but why transport things home that could get me in trouble with customs, or go uneaten?