Cabinets of curiosities were collections of objects in a period when the science disciplines were not fixed as they are today. If you had to fit the objects into modern categories, you would classify them under ethnography, archeology, biology, medicine, art or hoax. Cabinets of curiosities provided an interpretation of the world according to the collector-patrons that assembled them and were put to use to elevate or asset their status.
Then the science books were written and the cabinets fell out of favor, got assimilated in museums or vanished into oblivion.
I do not know how their contemporaries viewed those collections. Did they realize the objective point of view or did they take the small indoor universes as a somewhat credible transformation of the world? Could they distinguish between the thrill of the bizarre and the potentiality of the measurable and actual? I cannot answer with certainty, because the association I have is the disappointment of a child when he realizes that the mystical and the unexplored is chastised in a world of precise maps and technology.
One of the last resorts of the curious is food. The curious is a matter of the point of view of course – things become distant and strange depending on your standpoint. The interesting thing with food is that you cannot pretend too much – if you find something uneatable or revolting it probably is, since you bare the measure of revoltness. The most interesting cases are those that lay in the tolerance frontier: not familiar, but with the potential of being appreciated.
This is no match(to say the least) to the exploratory spirit of the Livingstones and the Scots of past centuries. But what can we do? The geography of the continents is known down to the centimetre. What remains are the deep vaults of the sea abyss and the hawker stalls.