Looking at old recipe books from the 1700's there is a wide variety of ingredients and cooking methods used. Of course today’s microwaves were not around then
Everything that grew was used from the humblest herb purslane to the buds of the elder flower, pigeons, venison, crabs, carp, pike, eel, globe artichokes as well as all the usual meats and fishes eaten today. Cucumbers were also preserved or pickled, either in brine, or white wine vinegar with cloves and mace. An excellent gooseberry sauce was made by lightly boiling them with parsley, then adding butter and sugar and serving with a roast leg of veal
Fish was used extensively- salmon, trout, pike, carp, and particularly eels. In some places eels were sold, roasted with an onion stuck in their mouths. They were also pickled in half-white wine and half vinegar, with lemon slices and mace. White wine, claret, and brandy are used in an almost indiscriminate way. Some recipes advocate enlivening carrot cake by the addition of a ".. half a pint of brandy .. ". Cherries, sloes, and currants of all colours are pickled in it, even a dash is added to potato pudding
It may be surprising to learn that the potato was not a mainstay of diet amongst all classes of people, until the late 1790's, which is why the dependence on it in the nineteenth century led to such disastrous and tragic events ". One account wrote in 1834:
"…. the potato crops were very limited in the parish…….It was rare to see potatoes in either farmer's or cottier's family from the 17 th March to autumn end.. . The entire crop of oats, barley and potatoes were consumed within the house ..….Seldom was potatoes used at the farmers' table unless during the winter …… "
This changes greatly as the famine approaches. The spread of the potato was probably helped by the increase in the numbers of pigs, as they were almost fed exclusively on potatoes