Farley Elliott is Taking it to the Streets in his DELICIOUS New Book

I am all about things that make you go “mmmmm”, and Farley Elliott’s debut book, “Los Angeles Street Food”, definitely falls in that category. Farley, a Senior Editor for Eater LA, does his city more than justice with mouth-watering descriptions of LA’s top food trucks, carts, stands, festivals and more, complete with photos that can only be described as food porn.

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Farley travelled far and wide for his soon to be go to guide, and I was lucky enough to catch up with him to talk about his book, the LA food scene, and of course tacos. You can check out our convo below.

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With all the great restaurants out there, what about street food gets you so excited?

It’s the innovation, the regional specificity. When you’re opening up big restaurants with big-name chefs, you sort have to take a maximalist approach — appeal to lots of people, and charge accordingly. With low overhead operations like carts and trucks, you can really focus on the one thing, or the two things, that you want to do, and do them with amazing accuracy. You can learn about the world through LA street food, because every place you visit is allowed to have its own footprint leading back to wherever it originated.

So many people come up with great ideas, but never follow through. What motivated you to actually make this book happen?

Well, for one, I always feel like I have something to say. That’s just part of being a writer. So there’s that idea — I get to say what I want, and you pick up the book and listen. That’s pretty great! I also wanted to write the book because, no matter how successful anyone is, we always try to find benchmarks to define ourselves. Having a book was a benchmark for me — a big one — and being able to see it on the shelf of my local bookstore was something that was important to me. Not wanting to fail yourself is a big motivator.

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You travelled to the far reaches of LA to hit up some of the vendors in your book. What was the craziest thing that happened on the road?

I did have a knife pulled on me once, but that was from a drunk guy and could have happened anywhere, at any time. It just happened to be in front of a taco truck. The idea of an unsafe taco stand or Taiwanese meat skewer truck has largely become a vicious rumor. Honestly, these are hardworking families trying to make a great product to feed their own neighborhoods; rotten food or outbursts of violence would be bad for business.

The photos in your book and on your drool-worthy instagram account are always amazing. Any tips or rules of thumb for taking awesome food photos?

Lighting is key. You can make bad food look good with the right light, but you will never be able to make amazing food look even remotely interesting in the dark.

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While delicious, the tacos, meat, pastries, etc. featured in the book might not be the most healthy. What street food would you recommend for someone trying to watch what they eat?

Well, there IS the idea of moderation in all things. But you’re right — it’s not the healthiest way to eat, especially if you spend most of your time in front of a computer screen. But there are fruit carts, juice vendors, trucks that serve goat birria with a hearty “bone broth” side of consommé. And yes, there are many, many vegetarian taco options, from huitlacoche (a funky sort of corn option) to stewed huazontle, which is a hearty green native to Mexico.

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If money and LA traffic weren’t an issue, what is your dream street food meal?

I’d start with elote from the Lincoln Heights corn man. It’s this amazingly simple corn on the cob that’s grilled, swiped with mayo and butter and dashed with salt and spices. From there, a round robin of tacos: one short rib from Kogi BBQ, one carne asada from the Tire Shop Taqueria, one al pastor from Tacos Tamix, and one carnitas from Tacos Los Guichos. Then the main: a torta cubana from Super Tortas D.F. in South LA. If there were any room left, I’d take some champurrado as a sweet finisher.

Oh, and an al pastor quesadilla from El Chato — as a late night snack, just in case.

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If you were to open up a food truck, what would it be?

I’d be no good at opening a truck. The margins are too thin, the days too long, and I’d blow up at a customer within the first few hours, probably. But in my best moments, I could see being a sort of short order breakfast cook within the food truck realm. Simple egg and sausage sandwiches, easy breakfast burritos, some high-quality drip coffee. There is something undeniably satisfying about feeding a crowd…

“Los Angeles Street food: A History from Tamaleros to Taco Trucks”, is available here, and be sure to follow Farley on Twitter and Instagram.

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Meet Peter Rosch, Author of “But I Love You”

I’ve been lucky enough to be beach-bound for a good part of the summer, which means I’ve also been lucky enough to catch up on some killer books. The standout so far has been “But I Love You” by Peter Rosch. Peter burst onto the scene with his first novel “My Dead Friend Sarah“, and in his second, he dives into the dark side of Manhattan’s elite — think “Millionaire Matchmaker” meets “The Wire” — and the result is a thought-provoking page turner that you simply can’t put down.

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I stole some time with Peter to get the deets on “But I Love You”, and pick his brain about how it came to be. If you like “Behind the Music”, get ready to go “Behind the Book”. Then, click here to buy a copy for yourself and all of your closest friends.

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“But I Love You” is told from the point of view of a variety of characters both male and female, who come from all walks of life. How did you approach writing roles that were nothing like you, and so different from each other?

First, I’m glad that you think the characters are nothing like me. I wish that were true. More accurately, I’d say they are nothing like the person I choose to be though. The selfish behavior of these characters is likely my own, but done up on steroids. And, let’s be honest, there’s no real shortage of self-seeking subjects in the world for us to observe. I write a book to serve a selfish need to be heard, you write a blog to fill some personal need, and that’s fine. That’s what creative people should do. I guess it becomes problematic if we dwell in our own filth of at-all-cost desires for too long. So, my own despicable thoughts coupled with half a lifetime of various introductions to loathsome characters (real or imagined) was there to draw upon. I’ll admit, there were times that I left my writing room feeling disgusted with every player, and thus with myself. It was occasionally unsettling. The personal challenge I had in mind before beginning was to create realistically disturbing self-centered sociopaths that we can all relate to, and at times empathize with. Then wrap that up in a love story, because what’s more selfish than wanting to possess the attention of another human who makes us feel good about ourselves? Love (or a crush) is always a good place to go if you are looking for a true-to-life start to something that can become disturbing and violent, happens all the time.

The book dips into many worlds — S&M, mental illness, substance abuse, drug dens, and crime — all centered around a Millionaire Matchmaker-esque corporation. What kind of research did you do to portray these worlds so well? 

I spent nearly two years trying to launch a single’s connection app with a friend six or so years ago, and during that time she and I (mostly she) performed an enormous amount of research on the dating world. Hooking people up with people is a lucrative business, always has been, and I met a lot of “entrepreneurs” trying to capitalize on the many quick bucks there was to be made by infusing technology into the dating equation. Truthfully, my partner was in love with love—she was in it for the idea of love. She was ahead of the curve with the idea, I’ve got to give her props on that. I’d say my interest was a bit more on the potential windfall of riches that never materialized. Even so, I’d not count myself as one of the gaggle of abhorrent folks we encountered (even if I was). The other themes… I was a bit nervous about writing a second book that included substance abuse issues, but ultimately I came to feel that addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness were integral. Both are as common as shoes in the worlds these characters inhabit. I don’t believe I’ve used them in a gimmicky fashion, or for shock value. If you were to hold a mirror to NYC, the reflections of most would at the very least include a friend, or friend of a friend, living within the construct of those crippling themes.

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 This book read like a film. Are there any intentions to turn it into a screenplay? 

I’ve started and stopped and started and stopped adapting But I Love You many times. A friend suggested it should actually be a movie and not a book, or a movie first and then a book. I take it as a compliment. I want to write quick, exciting reads. Both my novels were written with a film-like-read in mind. I’m pretty wordy though, even in a short story, and writing a sceenplay is a different beast altogether. That said, I’ll likely keep starting and stopping, starting and stopping until someone else raises their hand.

 On a more general note, how did you stay motivated to keep writing, and what are some tools you used to keep committed to the project? 

My wife motivates me. Her adoration motivates me. I’ve got to earn it. I am addicted to the rush of writing books for my wife who I believe is my biggest fan. On a more procedural tip, sadly, I often use cigarettes as a reward system to plow through pages. “Do five pages, and then you can have a smoke!” The truth is the truth. And part of that I guess is the fact that if I don’t write, tell, or act out stories in some form I’m just not a happy person. I don’t quite understand why I feel the need to torture myself in that way. It’s very rewarding, but it is also very lonely. Uglier things keep me going too. To plagiarize: “I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed.” That’s Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood. Somehow I’ve convinced myself that I’m running neck and neck with the best writers our there, and I’m certainly not going to let them get the drop on me. Ha. I’m an ass.

 How did you reward yourself when it was done? 

I’m not sure that I did. I think we had a big dinner out. But the biggest reward, even if it sounds totally repugnant, is that I can now focus on my third while I try to goose notoriety around But I Love You. At a certain point, finishing a book in any form is all about getting to the next story for me. Two years is a long time to craft something, even off and on, and calling it “done” at some point is probably the biggest reward.

 Describe “But I Love You” in three hashtags: 

#loveisasickness #peoplesuck #itcouldhappentoyou

For more, click for my talk with Peter about his first book, “My Dead Friend Sarah”.