The origins of the phrase come from Siam (modern-day Thailand). White or very pale elephants were so highly prized that when one was discovered, it immediately became the possession of the King. Relating that to the story I think the elephants symbolize a goal.
Everything tastes of licorice.” Especially all the things you've waited so long for, like absinthe." There could be a lot of meaning to this one i think that all the work and time she put into something for it to be unsatisfying/how she thought it would be.
Describing it as brown and dry on one side and nice on the other side. Since it's a whole completely different side it can mean there are two choices one that will lead to happiness (the goal) or the the other that will lead to a “brown and dry” life. The hills being the good choice and the brown and dry land being the bad choice