His eldest son would soon be off to college and Cal Peternell was worried. Did his son know how to cook?

That was a question that nibbled at the core of Peternell, who not only prepared food at home but also was a chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. His three sons had often joined him in the kitchen where they pounded garlic, whipped cream or baked cookies.

But had they paid attention to what their father was doing? Or, more important for Peternell, had he explicitly instructed them in the basics? With only a summer to catch up, Peternell got to work sharing his knowledge in a more focused manner with a crash-cooking course for his children.

Not long after his eldest arrived at college, he called his father with a cooking question. Then another. As Peternell offered his culinary advice from afar, he realized he had the makings of a cookbook. “Twelve Recipes” (William Morrow, 288 pages, $26.99) is the charming result, a culinary manual written for beginners, but full of useful chef wisdom that an experienced cook will appreciate, all written in a very conversational tone that makes this book such a pleasure to read. I want to have dinner with Peternell!

Though the title says 12 recipes, there are actually 13 categories of food that Peternell addresses — though two of those chapters are Pasta With Tomato, and Pasta Otherwise, so perhaps it’s really 12. Other topics range from eggs and beans to salad dressings and roasted chicken. But that’s just the beginning, as Peternell takes us far afield with variations aplenty and stories that will keep you turning the page.

This is one of the best books of the year.

Follow Lee Svitak Dean on Twitter: @StribTaste