Azdhag culture is derived from the predatory, pack-based society of the proto-Azdhagi. The few visitors venturing to Drakon IV will notice that the Azdhag diet is much higher in protein than are those of many species. Azdhagi are not obligate carnivores, but they do require a diet with a significant percentage of meat or protein-rich grains.
Protein consumption determines body size among Azdhagi. The first growth phase and the first half of the second growth phase are critical periods, and juniors who do not get enough protein develop into long, slender, short-legged individuals with lower than average strength. Families with enough resources to buy additional meat, and the nobility, tend to be on the whole larger than lower ranked individuals. Parents will scrimp and save to get meat and kurstem for their juniors in the hopes of having large offspring who can get better positions and marry more prosperous mates.
Most Azdhag eat a combination of meat and grain dishes, augmented with fruit and greens in season. Mammals visiting Drakon IV should avoid the greens at all costs, and should ask their hosts and interpreters for the ingredients in any dish with green plants or green colors to it. Leafy green plants on Drakon IV concentrate alkaloids. Although the reptilian species of Drakon IV eat them with near impunity, mammals should not eat greens unless they are very familiar with their internal chemistry. Fruits are generally safe.
Shootee and kurstem are the principal meat and grain types respectively. Shootee resemble large barrels on legs, with thick, low-slung tails, very short necks, and blocky heads. They tend to be greenish-brown in color and of placid disposition, although when chased by predators, shootee can move very quickly. A herd may trample a gantak or talkak to death, but will flee a king shardi. Most shootee are raised in large pastures. A few, notably on the Crown Lands, are herded into uplands in summer where they graze free-range, then return to lower elevations in the autumn. Meat from these animals is highly prized by those in the know because the grasses and herbs of the hills give the meat a distinctive wild flavor (or so it is claimed.)
Kurstem grows in temperate climates. It has a protein content twice that of the highest protein Terran grains, and a reddish-purple hue when it is harvested. Kurstem cooked has an attractive medium brown color and is easily shaped into balls, squares, and when ground is used in pasta. The firm texture and slightly nutty taste appeals to many species, but kurstem from Drakon IV is not exported. Colonial grown varieties are available in limited quantities at the better import food shops with in the Sapient Republic.
Azdhagi believe in sauces and many dishes include a sauce of some kind. In a few cases thin strips of raw meat are served plain or in a light sauce, but most non-natives eschew such dishes as “barbaric.”
Azdhagi use their talons to eat, or spoons, or drink soups directly from the bowl. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own eating utensils, unless they too have sufficiently long nails or talons to eat neatly.
Meals normally include a main dish and accompaniments. More elaborate festival meals will feature a soup, a salad, a meat, grain, and a fruit or slivered-meat course. A few nobles may serve imported hard cheeses to select guests, but no other dairy dishes are available on Drakon IV due to the near complete absence of mammals on the planet.
Beverages are covered in a separate section, as is dining etiquette.