A Meal Fit For A Thesis Defense
June 17, 2010 9:46 AM   Subscribe

What food should I bring for my thesis defense?

My thesis defense is tomorrow, and according to departmental tradition, I need to show up with something edible for my committee members. What should I bring?

Ideally, it should be something light and snack-y, something that can be easily transported via public transit, and something that can be eaten without undue fuss or mess. One of my committee members is vegetarian, so my offering to the academic altar needs to be meat-free. There are three people in my committee, and any extra food will be parceled out to department secretaries or lurking graduate students, so I'd prefer to err on the side of too much food rather than too little. Something sugary would probably be most appreciated.

I have a wonderful kitchen and a well-stocked pantry, and I have no qualms about baking something tonight or tomorrow morning. What can I bring that will offer at least a little (positive) distraction from my actual thesis? (Because so long as they're chewing, they can't ask me questions...)
posted by cabezadevaca to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I brought sparkling water, crackers, fruit, and fancy cheese to mine. Most other students in my department brought cookies/coffee/cake, that sort of thing.

Out of nerves, I probably ate more than anyone else. But it sure was tasty!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2010

smitten kitchen's homemade oreos. so. good.
posted by oh really at 9:57 AM on June 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Brownies or cookies would be nice, and a plate with some fruit like grapes and strawberries. You could also do a sliced baguette with some cheeses. Don't forget a little something to drink. Sparkling lemonade maybe?

That may be too much food though. The thesis defenses at my school include non-committee audience members, so there is always lots of food!
posted by apricot at 9:58 AM on June 17, 2010

I spent the day before my defense baking with a good friend. It was awesome. I had blueberry crumb bars, two kinds of mini muffins, mini cheesecakes (mini-muffin-sized), a spread of fresh fruit, and a (purchased) tray of baklava. Friends helped me set up hot water for tea and a box of coffee from a good place in town, as well. There was at least five times as much food as was needed. Handing out leftovers helps leave on a high note, I guess.

After my defense, a professor who hadn't been there came up, congratulated me, and said, "So I hear you prefer baking to worrying!" Well yeah. Who doesn't?
posted by whatnotever at 9:59 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

napastyle's 'salsa di parmagiano is cheese crack. tasty tasty cheese crack. some of that with some fresh bread and/or crackers might work.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:08 AM on June 17, 2010

If your committee is anything like mine was, you'll be fine so long as there is coffee.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:13 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I brought finger sandwiches, cookies, sparkling wine and beer to my husband's dissertation defense a couple of weeks ago, and it went over very well with his committee and friends/family that came. I think your decision might vary depending on what time of day your defense is scheduled at. His was over right around noon, so I wanted to have more lunch-y food instead of just sweets.
posted by booknerd at 10:34 AM on June 17, 2010

Something sugary would probably be most appreciated.

These brownies are basically the most ridiculously rich and delicious thing ever, which makes sense when you think about an ingredients list that includes: a cup of butter, a half pound of chocolate, four eggs, a cup of brown sugar, a cup of white sugar, a cup of flour, and a few small bits of other things. in other words, roughly 17% flour, 83% fats and sweets. Fucking delicious.

Make sure you use as good quality chocolate as you can find, and leave out the nuts, since some people like brownies with nuts, but everyone likes brownies without nuts.

Serve with good coffee.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 10:38 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having done two years in a weekly grad seminar that had rotating snack duties I'm come to believe that people will eat just about anything, and the best things are the things that are easiest to eat. Oranges are delicious but a pain to eat because you have to peel them. Grapes, you can just grab. Sugary things should be non-gooey and bite-sized; people may not want to eat an entire muffin or entire slice of cake. (I kind of think people were happier with fruit than sugary things most of the time, though.) My usual choice was rice crackers, brie (pre-sliced into bite size chunks), grapes, and some other fruit.

Good luck on your defense!
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:41 AM on June 17, 2010

Is dairy a problem? These Cook's Illustrated Brown Sugar Cookies are great, but they have butter and eggs. You also have to give them your e-mail address to get to the recipe (or dig around to find it elsewhere), but it's probably my favorite cookie recipe ever. They're better than other cookies because you brown the butter first.
posted by anaelith at 10:50 AM on June 17, 2010

Whoopie Pies!
posted by Gilbert at 10:53 AM on June 17, 2010

I brought chocolate chip cookies. Chips Ahoy, which I bought at CVS on the way in that morning.

One of my fellow grad students walked in, saw them sitting on the table. His eyes got wide, and he said "ooh! cookies!"

About thirty seconds later my advisor walked in and had the exact same reaction.

That's when I knew I was going to pass.

In short: everybody likes cookies.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2010

this is from the perspective of departmental staff that get the leftovers and have to listen to the professors bitch about poor selection.

1. Homemade, if it is good, is always best. My preference is chocolate chip cookies.

2. Fruit or vegetable tray is always good. Bonus points for a multitude of dips. Ask.Mefi has lots of good recipes in it.

3. Have a couple types of drinks. Good, hot coffee is always nice. Is there a Dunkin Donuts around? They have those To-Go boxes that are really convenient. If you have chocolate chip cookies it would be a nice touch to have milk for dunking.

4. Do you have any family recipes that are unique to your culture? It is always cool to get to try different types of sweets from our very diverse graduate students?

Finally, don't be afraid to ask the staff. They know what certain professors like and dislike.
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:01 PM on June 17, 2010

Bagels, fruit, cheese, crackers. Water, juice.
posted by k8t at 12:13 PM on June 17, 2010

I brought coffee and bagels, which seemed to be well-received. However, one of my committee members fainted during my defense and then recovered well enough to fake that he hadn't. He waited until I finished answering questions for them to call the ambulance. I'm not sure whether this speaks in favor of Bruegger's or against it. I passed.
posted by Stewriffic at 1:55 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I defended after lunch and brought a homemade cookie tray. (We had good office coffee.) I passed and got asked for a couple of recipes.

The woman who defended before lunch brought a gigantic sub sandwich with onions on it. Half of it was still there when I showed up, and she was sent back for revisions.

In short, something that can be picked up, that is tasty, and that isn't covered in onions ought to do you fine. Also, enjoy it as much as you can. Mine was actually over before I realized I was having fun.
posted by catlet at 6:56 PM on June 17, 2010

Also don't forget the time of day. My defense was in the afternoon not long after lunch, so I brought some light snacky things. Fancy crackers, a small veggie tray, homemade dip, and some juice.

If it had been morning, I probably would have brought pastries, muffins, or bagels and some fruit.

Also, make sure and bring something you or your friends want to eat. No matter how delicious there are always left overs.
posted by bubonicpeg at 4:01 AM on June 18, 2010

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